What is FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet)
FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) is the most common type of broadband connection used in UK homes. It uses a blend of fibre and copper cables to deliver broadband into the premises via existing copper telephone wires. This makes it quick and cheap to install, as well as highly available throughout the UK.
An FTTC connection is shared (contended) with many other users around your local area. This means it’s performance will be hindered during peak hours (when many other people are using it). And because it’s a contended connection, FTTC is not powerful enough for most businesses, especially those that rely heavily on internet use.
Instead, uncontended connections such as microwave internet are commonly used by businesses. For households on the other hand, FTTC provides a cost-effective solution that will handle most of the common requirements such as streaming, internet browsing, VoIP and social media use.
How Does FTTC Work?
Put simply, FTTC is a fibre connection from the exchange to the cabinet, where it’s shared out among various people via copper phone lines.
A fibre connection is made from your nearest exchange to your nearest “cabinet”. These cabinets are the green boxes you’ve likely seen around your local area, which are used to distribute the internet out to various people on the network.
The connection between the cabinet and the home is known as the “last mile” – a term that’s a little misleading as it’s often not as far as a mile.
Your “last mile” of an FTTC connection is delivered through old copper phone wires, which transfer data (internet) much slower than fibre optic cables or a PTP microwave link.
The further your premises is from the cabinet, the slower your broadband will run, as it will have to travel further along slow copper wires.
Other Names For FTTC
Some of the other common names people use when referring to FTTC include:
- Super Fast Broadband
- Fibre Broadband
The speed of your FTTC connection is heavily dependent on your distance from the nearest cabinet and how many others are sharing the connection.
Generally speaking, FTTC is offered at three different download variations, these are:
- 80Mbps download (76Mbps maximum throughput)
- 55Mbps download (52Mbps maximum throughput)
- 40Mbps download (38Mbps maximum throughput)
The upload speeds offered for FTTC are typically
- 20Mbps upload (80Mbps download)
- 10Mbps upload (55Mbps or 40Mbps download)
- 2Mbps upload (40Mbps download)
Neither the download or upload speed of an FTTC connection is guaranteed and the performance will heavily depend on the amount of data other people on the network are using, as well as your distance from the cabinet.
If you live within 100M of the cabinet and there aren’t too many other users on the network, the above download and upload speeds are very achievable during non-peak hours. Otherwise it’s worth checking prior to taking out any contract what your actual estimated speed will be.
For most businesses and many people, the above speeds are too slow and so the option of bonding two FTTC connections together is often a good, cost-effective solution when internet connectivity isn’t mission-critical.
By combining two FTTC connections together, you can double your download and upload speeds, while paying a fraction of what you would for a leased line.
This is good for households and startups who need to keep costs low, but isn’t very well suited for businesses as you’re still on a contended (shared) network that runs slower during peak hours.
Another issue is that although you have two connections, they are both coming from the exact same source – so if one goes down, they both go down. Hence why FTTC isn’t offered with a mission critical service level agreement.
Benefits Of FTTC
- Low Price
FTTC is one of the cheapest connections to the internet currently available in the UK. It utilises existing phone cables, which keeps the set up costs low, and there’s little to no ongoing maintenance costs. There’s also a very low monthly rental fee
- Highly Available
The vast majority of the UK has FTTC available in their area. Currently, in 2021, there’s around a 96% availability rate, so you’d be very unlucky to not have FTTC available
- Faster Than ADSL
Because the connection between the cabinet and the exchange is made via fibre, an FTTC connection will provide you with faster speeds than an ADSL line.
Disadvantages Of FTTC
- Highly Contended
Because there are many other users sharing the same connection, your download and upload speeds will fluctuate throughout the day, making it difficult to use in business environments
- Slow Speeds
Although a FTTC connection is faster than an ADSL, it’s still incredibly slow when compared to a fibre or wireless leased line
- No SLA
Service level agreements give guaranteed uptime, fast service restoration as well as round the clock monitoring of the connection. This is fairly commonplace when looking at business internet connections, however it is not able to be offered on a FTTC connection.