Broadband News

Diet fibre or full fat fibre which do you prefer?

Some research commissioned by a number of full fibre operators has perhaps unsurprisingly found that when the public has the differences between partial fibre and full fibre explained they recognise the step change that full fibre represents. Now if only providers could have done similar over the past 17 years in explaining how to get the best from broadband in its many forms, e.g. home wiring, distance issues, contention, peak versus off-peak, contract terms and many other things.

The ASA is undertaking a review of how the word 'fibre' is used in advertising and this started in April, so this latest research is as much a public lobbying exercise as it is a representation to the ASA. Unfortunately the ball was dropped on the word fibre some 8 or 9 years ago and while clarity such as the French stance on how the word can be used would be welcomed, along with the raft of other rule changes on there may well be a need for a public education programme.

So what are the differences between a 30 Mbps connection that is partial fibre and full fibre? Well if the partial fibre is a DOCSIS coax cable connection then in terms of reliability they should be similar and the speeds should be the same since 30 million bits per second is still 30 million bits per second, but you do enter in an over provisioning game where cable connections are often over provisioned by perhaps 10%, so it might go faster. For VDSL2 (Fibre to the Cabinet) the difference is more marked due to the performance drop off over distance but if someone is comparing an actual 30 Mbps VDSL2 service to a full fibre service then speeds should be similar, but things like bursts of radio noise e.g. lightning can cause problems and a resync can take a minute or two sometimes. There are also other questions over IPv4 and IPv6, e.g. is a CGNAT IPv4 connection a full Internet connection?

At this time point someone will want to mention that full fibre is symmetric and offers Gigabit speeds, and while this is true for some services the symmetry tends to only apply for point to point fibre solutions rather than PON (i.e. dedicated fibre per property, or PON which takes a core fibre and splits the light frequencies for individuals until the final individual drop fibre). Things like peak time congestion still occur and we have seen some customers on PON services where high split ratios are used complaining of congestion issues just like other shared mediums like cable.

So even if if fibre becomes the domain of real full fibre connections, there will still be qualifiers needed to avoid confusion and misleading people, and get this in France Hyperoptic would also not be allowed to call their service fibre, because the Hyperoptic service generally runs the fibre to within 100m of each flat and by use of media converters the final few metres are over Cat5e Ethernet cable i.e. Fibre to the Building.

So while in the words of one survey participant "There’s no competition between fibre and part-fibre […] It’s like choosing between an awesome car and a bus." there are numerous caveats and clauses so while the inequity of VDSL2 being called fibre may be a worth thing to fix, it is not a full solution to confusing broadband advertising.

Broadband advertising is by its nature talking to a wide audience at the time, and the emphasis should be on making it absolutely clear to the public that they need to pay close attention to the information given at the point of sale, e.g. personalised estimates, whether there are any minimum guarantees, along with all the usual financial stuff.

The broadband world is also not just about the TV adverts but the selling side is intrinsincally liked to the numerous comparison sites and we wonder how many provide information such as we do about the underlying technology, so example here is what we say for BT Infinity 2 in terms of the wholesale products it can use.


The other area that will need addressing is what the many BDUK projects put out in press releases, where words like fibre, superfast, high-speed, fast all have acquired their own meanings over the years but are sometimes confusingly used, occasionally in an attempt to make things look better than they are, or more often its probably because people are trying to squeeze in the right key words and full lengthy meaning is often not realised.

A future that talks of full fibre and partial fibre may be a little clearer but the next battle is going to be between the full fibre providers and how they measure and compare performance and there is the real possibility that some partial fibre products may actually offer better performance in terms of what is delivered download speed wise. Or put another way, copper be it twisted pair or coax is a very outdated comms medium but it keeps on giving more and in terms of reliability for things like streaming the core network capabilities of operators and local backhaul link capacity are critical, so just as happened over a decade ago some ADSL providers had congestion issues in the core fibre network there may well be a time when one of the full fibre operators hits a capacity crunch point.

Make no mistake Fibre to the Premises is better but there are times we worry that it may be being promoted as the emperors new clothes and this is slightly understandable as the UK broadband market is so fiercely fought that breaking the 1 million customer barrier as a new entrant is a lot harder than claiming you can address a few million homes.


For what I use the internet for I am ok on FTTC, I get around 35Mb/s and to be honest it is ample. If full fibre came here I doubt I would bother unless the price was good. the technology works ok as long as the provider can cope. but I do not like FTTC being called fibre as it is not really fibre, just a hybrid.
My problem with the system we have in the UK is that the network belongs to one private company that have far too much power and that we have to pay over priced line rental to get it even if we do not use the phone.

  • zyborg47
  • 5 months ago

I'd probably go for FTTP if I could get it, I generally prefer streaming movies and tv and digital downloads for games. With some big releases averaging 60GB plus the more bandwidth the better.

The system in the UK might not be perfect, but in parts of the USA it sounds much worse.

  • ManD3vil
  • 5 months ago

The public generally don't understand technical terms so calling FTTC or Virgin's efforts Fibre is misleading. The problem we have is so many people think they are on Fibre now it hard to change the perception of what they have.

My most visited openreach page doesn't help with the description of fibre...

  • Kebabselector
  • 5 months ago

I wrote a lengthy email to Ofcom, who pointed me in the direction of the ASA and I copied in my local MP on exactly this subject back in March, so I'm very happy to see this. The ASA actually stated (happy to dig out the email) that they had done a questionaire at the time and decided that 'fibre' was appropriate, in my email I explained that I drive an Audi, and if I tried to sell it as a Bentley then this would be fraud, calling VDSL2 'fibre' as far as I'm concerned amounts to no different, and in most cases of people asking, who don't know better, almost all thought they had actual fibre...

  • LudaLuke
  • 5 months ago

This was all avoidable if the ASA had actually thought about it before waving through VM describing cable as fibre optic.

Disappointing that it takes politicians to get them to get their backsides in gear.

  • CarlThomas
  • 5 months ago

Strictly hyperoptic shouldn't even describe Ethernet over cat5 as broadband. It's baseband, but that train has long since sailed I fear.

  • awoodland
  • 5 months ago

@zyborg47 you complain about Openreach monopoly but in more than half the country they are not a monopoly so that is not relevant. Virgin are increasing footprint so monopoly is decreasing. And what is the alternative? Anyone can install a fibre loop if they want - but presumably they can't compete against OR so cost wise OR can't be that expensive. Splitting by geographic area still leaves only one option to each premises but just dilutes company sizes making investment more difficult. So what is your solution that resolves these issues?

  • ian72
  • 5 months ago

Surely to most "consumers" the "technology" is irrelevant? What we are interested in is things like
1) Can I adequately stream TV/HDTV/4KTV? (even that veers towards getting techy - but if you have bought a 4K smart TV you do want to know that you use it!)
2) What is the impact of multiple users?
3) How quickly can I backup files to cloud storage?
We then need a solution (connection to the internet and "point of access" hardware) that meets these needs. How suppliers actually get the electrons or photons flying around is up to them!
Ofcom (?) then needs to define levels or service standards

  • dsf58
  • 5 months ago

I have just upgraded to what Talktalk call fastfibre, The maximum speed I can get in my area is 17.5mpbs. When I do a speed test I am informed that fibre is available in my area. This is due to speed testers not recognising this as fibre speed. The Openreach engineer who installed my master socket explained that due to where I live, a semi rural area 16 miles from Aberdeen, and the distance from the cabinet were all a factor in this situation. Although the cabinet is only a quarter of a mile from my house due to the layout of the fibre cabling this distance could be treble that, or even more

  • andymacp
  • 5 months ago

the problem is FTTC/VDSL(or In the cab) even DOCSIS should not be called fibre

unless its fibre to the pole(G.Fast modem on the pole or street level) or actual FTTP virgin should be FTTP to be called fibre (should not be based off speed)

unless they are forced to correct add more cards or extra cab congested areas within good time not years/never(as it usually is) or wait until new DOCSIS technology (as they have done again with DOCSIS 3.1) normally Virgins internet fibre network is norm fine, its norm the DOCSIS COXA side or the bandwidth providers that bridge virgin to the internet

  • leexgx
  • 5 months ago


i did a quick look at this fastfibre , so is it actual FTTP as the fuff seems to suggest its just FTTC (due to it saying fiber is going to a CAB and its reducing the copper length)

  • leexgx
  • 5 months ago

With dial-up and now FTTC, BT had fibre somewhere in their network, but it's still copper to the property in both scenarios. Where do you draw the line before calling it fibre?

It should be based upon what comes into the property. If it's copper, then call it as such. A ban on the misleading use of the word might encourage them to build FTTP instead of "sticking-plaster solutions".

When VM was called United Artists, their sales droid overused the word "fibre-optic", even implying it was a fibre cable that came into the home.

Because my car has a turbo in it, should I call it a supercar?

  • solcuerda
  • 5 months ago

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