Fibre to the premises, or FTTP, gives you a direct connection to the internet via a fibre-optic cable carrying data encoded in pulses of light.
For most homes and businesses, it’s the fastest connection you can get – if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you can get FTTP instead of the more common fibre to the cabinet, or FTTC.
With FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet), the fibre-optic cable stops at a nearby cabinet on the street and the journey is finished using old-fashioned copper telephone wires. Currently this gives you a top speed of 80Mbps. FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) runs from an exchange or cabinet straight into your home, giving you much faster speeds.
BT’s current FTTP lines promise top download speeds of 330Mbps and upload speeds of 20Mbps and 30Mbps. Eventually BT says that it will be able to increase speeds up to 1Gbps, on par with Hyperoptic’s 1Gbps service and independent fibre projects like B4RN’s community-funded Gigabit network.
So with FTTP a fibre optic line replaces the old copper phone line?
Yes. The FTTH Council defines FTTP as ‘a telecommunications architecture in which a communications path is provided over optical fibre cables extending from the telecommunications operator’s switching equipment to (at least) the boundary of the home living space or business office space.’
The FTTH Council is a industry associated dedicated to the ‘promotion and acceleration of fiber to the home’. Though it’s based in North America, it has a sister organisation, FTTH Council Europe, which promotes take-up of FTTH over here.
Wait wait, what’s FTTH?! Is that the same as FTTP?
Yes, the two are more or less the same thing. FTTH is short for Fibre to the Home and is used to describe FTTP lines going into individual homes and buildings.
If you live in a detached, semi-detached or terraced house that can get FTTP, it will be FTTH. If you live in a flat or an apartment block it will probably be FTTB.
Right. So what’s FTTB?
FTTB is another term often used in conjunction with FTTP: it’s short for Fibre to the Basement, or Fibre to the Building.
FTTB refers to FTTP broadband lines which serve large blocks of flats or apartments. One fibre line comes into the building before splitting off to serve multiple floors and rooms inside the building. People living in an apartment block connected to an FTTB line wouldn’t see fibre actually coming into their homes, as you would do with a dedicated FTTH line.
So technically, both FTTH and FTTB are FTTP broadband, as they’re both fibre to the premises. The difference is that with FTTH, one fibre connection is used by one house. With FTTB, a connection is shared by a greater number of people, living or working in one building.
Can I order FTTP fibre broadband now?
FTTP broadband is available to order now from a handful of ISPs. BT and Hyperoptic are leading the charge.
Even from the ISPs which are selling it, FTTP broadband is not yet widely available. BT has only upgraded 15 locations with FTTP lines and Hyperoptic currently only provides broadband in central London. Both ISPs are committed to increasing availability.
BT’s trialling an ‘FTTP On Demand’ program which is expected to see customers eventually able to upgrade FTTC broadband for an extra one-off cost.
Hyperoptic, currenty only serving central London, is looking to launch in a ‘secondary city’ this year and has hinted at further rollout elsewhere in 2013.
Where else can I get FTTP?
Velocity 1 offers FTTP broadband with packages at 30Mbps, 60Mbps and 100Mbps for £20, £30 and £40 a month respectively.
CityFibre, based in Bournemouth, operates an FTTP network which connects over 24,000 homes, and 14,000 more are planned to join in the future. Bournemouth-based ISP Fibrebrand makes use of the CityFibre network and is trialling 1Gbps broadband right now.
Moving away from the cities there are projects like B4RN, a community-funded FTTP network which is preparing to connect its first set of homes and businesses.
Main image credit: Flickr user adrienneserra