What is full fiber broadband? We explain how it turns out that many do not know what internet they have

Almost half of Brits stumble over broadband speed terminology. This is not supported by the fact that some providers use wrong names for broadband offers

If you don’t understand the difference between broadband, fiber optic, and all-glass internet, you’re not alone.

Research suggests that many Britons don’t know what these terms really mean – although many of us are happy to pretend we do.

Regulator Ofcom found that while 73 per cent of internet customers say they have a good grasp of the lingo surrounding internet connections, almost half (46 per cent) mistakenly believe they have fast fiber broadband when in fact they don’t is.

Confusing – and often misleading – advertising from ISPs hasn’t helped Brits understand the different types of broadband out there.

Get connected: Modern broadband comes in a variety of different speeds, depending on the technology that powers it

Internet customers could soon receive clearer information on this according to plans being drawn up by Ofcom.

But now we’ll explain the difference between all types of broadband – and how to find out which type you currently have.

What is the difference between standard, fiber and all-glass broadband?

In short: speed and material. Standard broadband relies on copper wires to carry a signal to your property.

This form of Internet connection is called Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, or ADSL for short.


One level above is fiber optic broadband, which, as the name suggests, uses fiber optic cable to carry faster broadband to your nearest street cabinet, and then copper cable the rest of the way to your home.

Street cabinets are the green boxes you can see around you that are used to distribute the internet to households.

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The fastest form of fiber broadband is known as cable. This will use fiber optic cables to carry broadband to the street booths and then Virgin Media cables to connect to the properties.

A tier above fiber broadband is full fiber, which uses fiber optic cables all the way to your property. This broadband is the fastest of all and also the most expensive.

Currently, multi-resident households who simultaneously stream movies, play games, or work from home are opting for all-fiber broadband.

Fiber broadband is sometimes referred to as “Fiber to the Cabinet” while all-fiber is referred to as “Fiber to the Premises”.

Find the fastest, cheapest broadband – and see if you can save

Broadband, TV and phone contracts are notoriously sticky, with customers often leaving contracts running for many years while providers hike prices.

But it’s possible to get faster broadband, a better TV package, and a better phone deal, all while saving money every month.

A price comparison is always worthwhile to see whether you can save – especially in times of the cost of living crisis.

This is Money has partnered with Broadband Choices to offer readers the ability to easily search for the best and cheapest deals on their broadband, mobile and TV needs.

> Can you save? Compare broadband, TV and telephone offers

Almost all households (99.9 percent) can access standard ADSL broadband, while 96 percent can access fiber broadband, according to comparison company Uswitch. Many of the remaining 4 percent of homes are in rural areas.

Exactly one-third (33 percent) of properties have access to full fiber broadband. The lower availability of all-fiber is because this form of the internet relies on fiber optic cables being able to run all the way to your front door, which is not yet possible everywhere.

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You can use a free online tool from Openreach to check if your property can receive full fiber broadband.

There are also two other notable ways to get broadband: cellular and satellite.

These two forms of broadband are rarely confused with anything else due to their specialization.

Mobile broadband requires the user to have a USB dongle that provides internet access to the device you are plugging it into, or a dedicated mobile broadband router.

Meanwhile, satellite broadband requires – which is extremely rare – a satellite dish to be attached to the property.

What is the confusion between fiber and full fiber?

The main problem is that the terms “fiber” and “full fiber” are used loosely by broadband providers.

Ofcom notes that “the term fiber is used inconsistently by the industry”.

This means that some vendors incorrectly use “full fiber” in marketing materials when they really mean “fiber optic” because no fiber optic cable connects directly to a prospective customer’s home.

Ofcom’s Director of Connectivity, Selina Chadha, said: “It is vital that customers are given the right information so they can choose the best broadband service for them.

“But some of the industry jargon used to describe the underlying technology that supports their broadband service can be unclear and contradictory, meaning customers are left confused.”

How can I tell what type of broadband I have?

It is best to speak to your broadband provider and check the literature that has been sent to you.

This type of connection is used for ADSL and fiber broadband

But there are ways you can find out what kind of internet you have.

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Standard broadband and fiber broadband use routers that plug into a main phone jack on the wall, while all-glass broadband routers connect to a special box on your property called an optical network terminal.

Internet speed is also a sign of what type of broadband you have.

Optical network terminals are used for all-fiber broadband

ADSL broadband typically has speeds of 6 to 25 megabits per second (Mbps)

Fiber broadband speeds range from 30 to 80 Mbps.

With cable broadband, these speeds are between 30 and 500 Mbit/s.

Full-fiber broadband can reach speeds of 1,000 Mbps.

You can check your broadband speed with free online tools.

How does broadband speeds work?

Just to confuse things a bit, many broadband deals aren’t advertised just based on type – ADSL, fiber and so on.

Instead, the providers use words like “superfast”, “ultrafast” and “gigabit”.

Super-fast broadband has download speeds of 30Mbps or more, according to Ofcom.

Ultra-fast broadband speeds range from 300Mbps to 1,000Mbps.

Gigabit broadband has speeds of 1,000 Mbps or more – or more than one gigabit.

However, those terms are relaxed, and broadband companies are touting deals faster than Ofcom’s guidelines suggest.

Full-fiber offerings are generally more expensive, and whether or not you need them depends on how much you use the internet and what you use it for.

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