Navigate the world of Business Fibre Broadband and FTTP with our comprehensive guide. Explore benefits, and features, and make informed connectivity decisions.
Interconnectivity is more important to businesses than ever. Many businesses would find it difficult to function without a fast, reliable internet connection to the outside world, so making the right decision over which service you should choose and who should supply it is one of the most important business decisions that you can take.
The benefits of shopping around in a congested marketplace can be more than technical. When broadband works seamlessly it can become easy to forget about your contract, and price increases can then start eating into your bottom line. But which is right for you? It can get confusing and complicated, so SwitchPal is here to walk you through what can feel at times like a jungle of jargon and acronyms.
Traditional broadband, powered by copper cables through ADSL, is dying off to be replaced by fibre broadband. But it’s not quite as simple as simply deciding to upgrade from ADSL to fibre, because there’s more than one type of fibre available, as well.
FTTP stands for “Fibre To The Premises”, and involves fibre optic cables being used into your premises. You’ll sometimes see or hear it being referred to as “full fibre broadband”. By comparison, FTTC stands for “File To The Cabinet”, in which fibre optic cables are used to the nearest broadband enclosure (or ‘cabinet’ - these are the green metal boxes that you frequently see on streets) to you, but with the last bit of that data journey into your premises being made by copper wire.
Fibre optic cables carry data faster and more reliably than copper wires. Using copper for the wiring from the broadband cabinet (as with standard fibre broadband) or your local exchange (as with ADSL broadband) to your business will significantly slow that connection down.
Any document, sales transaction, photograph or video that you send by broadband is essentially a string of data which your device converts into something useful to you. There are many moving parts to how quickly this movement and conversion of data gets from point A to point B, but the type of broadband connection used is probably the single most important link in this chain. Traditional ADSL broadband sends data by copper wire from an exchange to a cabinet near your premises, and then on by the same means. It relies on the infrastructure of landline telephones. It’s cheap and fairly reliable, but it’s also slow, by modern standards.
Fibre broad speeds up that journey to the cabinet by using fibre optic cables from the exchange, but although this connectivity solution is faster than solely using copper wires, the use of copper wires from cabinets to your premises still diminishes internet speed into your premises, so the physical distance from your premises to the cabinet box your company uses also a direct impact on the maximum speed available to your company should you use this type of fibre connection.
Full fibre broadband (FTTP) eliminates this “last mile” slowdown by installing fibre optic cables into your business. It’s also the case that even FTTC fibre requires you to ‘share’ your connection with others in your locality. This is why some find their speeds slowing during peak hours. With a connection going directly by fibre optic cable straight into your premises, this throttling of speed is also substantially reduced.
There are three main advantages to using fibre broadband: bandwidth and speed, reliability and scalability.
Bandwidth and speed are important, and they’re not quite the same as each other. Bandwidth is best defined as the maximum data transfer rate of data (usually Internet connectivity), or a network's capacity which is generally expressed in gigabits per second (Gbps) or megabits per second (Mbps).
One megabit per second (1Mbps) is 1,000 bits per second, and one gigabit per second (1Gbps) is 1,000 megabits per second. Bandwidth is not the same as speed since bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data transfer per second. while internet speed is based on the actual rate of data transfer per second.
Copper-wired ADSL broadband maxes out around 10/15 Mbps and FTTC fibre at around 70/80Mbps, but FTTP broadband can reach speeds of 1Gbps, getting on for 100 times the speed of ADSL broadband and more than ten times the speed of FTTC fibre broadband.
Fibre broadband is also more reliable than traditional copper-based wiring. All data signals degrade over a range, but fibre offers significantly better signal durability. Fibre only loses 3% of the signal over distances greater than 100 metres, compared to copper's 94% loss of signal. It’s also more resistant to interference on the line–copper conducts electricity while fibre optic cables do not because it’s smaller and lighter than copper cabling.
Fibre broadband also offers a degree of future-proofing. Copper ADSL lines are on their way out, but FTTC fibre speeds can be limiting as well. FTTP networks are designed to handle gigabit speeds. With technological advancements, network operators can leverage the existing infrastructure to deliver even higher speeds without significant upgrades. This makes scalability as straightforward as it could be.
Even with an FTTP connection, you will have to deal with contention. The contention is where users share your bandwidth, leading to slower connection speeds during peak usage periods. Where FTTP contends, a leased line instead provides a dedicated fibre optic service that connects directly to a customer’s premises, bypassing the need to share infrastructure and boosting connection speeds.
Availability can be an issue. At present, 52% of residential homes in the UK are in areas that can receive FTTP broadband. This is changing, but at present whether you even can receive it will depend on where your business is located. But this is changing, and even FTTC broadband may be on its way out. Openreach has announced plans to make FTTP available to 85% of the country by December 2026. To achieve this goal, fibre optic cables will need to be installed to 25 million homes and businesses by this date.
As fibre optic cable is lighter and thinner than copper wiring, it's also important to note that it is prone to physical damage. Fibre optic cables are easy to cut accidentally when building renovations are going on, and even just one cut cable can be disruptive. You can mitigate this by understanding exactly where your cable enters and passes through your premises. This is especially important if they’re to undergo renovation of your work premises; it is not uncommon for fibre optic cables to get damaged during building work.
Cost is another significant factor. The costs of fibre optic cabling are lower over the long term, but they can still be expensive to install. You need to have specialist equipment to check all is working as it should, and you also need to have the right worker on hand to set up the fibre optics equipment for you. These costs can quickly start to build up, so it helps to know exactly what you need to include in your budget.
No matter what your business is, the security of the data that you send and receive is critical. Data breaches can be financially and reputationally ruinous. Copper cables can be more vulnerable to hackers who use cable-tapping methods to steal data and information. Fibre cables aren’t as easy to tap and so offer a more secure connection. Fibre cables are also less likely than copper cables to be affected by electromagnetic interference, which can be caused by heavy machinery being used in close range and disturb the speed and reliability of your connection.
Cloud-based services have changed how we do business, playing a vital role in fostering collaboration, and allowing teams to access and edit shared files in real-time. A reliable and fast broadband connection is critical to get the best use of these services, to maintain services and ensure that you're getting the maximum productivity from your staff. Nothing affects productivity more than downtime that has come about because the internet has gone down!
The three main advantages of using fibre broadband, are bandwidth and speed, scalability and budget. Faster and even more reliable connections are more desirable, but they can come at a cost. A leased FTTP line carrying a fibre optical connection into your building at 1Gps is considerably more expensive than a simple 10Mbps ADSL connection which may be sufficient for a small trader, and the set-up costs can be high as well.
You should also consider your future business plans, as well. Since fibre optic cable can be damaged during building work, you may even wish to stay with copper until planned renovation work has taken place. Also, bear in mind that installation can take time. Business broadband lines can often be installed and operational within 10-15 days, but leased FTTP lines have a much longer lead time for installation and can often take up to 60 days for end-to-end deployment.
Businesses in rural locations which meet the following criteria can use vouchers to support the cost of installing new gigabit-capable connections when part of a group project.
Existing broadband speeds are less than 100Mbps.
A gigabit-capable network isn’t likely to be built to that area commercially in the near future.
There is no government-funded contract planned or in place to improve the network already.
To qualify for a business voucher you will be asked to self-certify that you are a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (SME), as defined by sections 465 to 467 of the Companies Act 2006, which can be summarised as:
Up to 249 employees and annual turnover no greater than £36 million; and/or
An annual balance sheet total not exceeding £18 million.
You will be asked to provide evidence of your status as a SME or sole trader. You will also have to self-certify that the organisation will have received less than 325,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) in public grants over any period of three fiscal years including the current year, including the voucher contribution.
The Special Drawing Rights amount has replaced the €200,000 de minimis grant limit following the UK’s exit from the European Union on the 31st December 2020. The SDR to GBP exchange rate can be found on the International Monetary Fund’s website.
Not-for-profit and charitable undertakings which qualify as SMEs are eligible in the same way that for-profit enterprises are. You can check your company’s eligibility for these vouchers on the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme website.
There are several companies providing both FTTC and FTTP fibre broadband services in the UK.
Sky Business offer a range of business solutions, and offers up to a 900 Mbps connection, depending on your location. They also offer ‘ultra-reliable’ payment transactions, ‘leading-edge’ connectivity, fast downloads and faster access to cloud applications. One particularly attractive service that they offer is their r Stay Connected Guarantee, with which a 4G backup service monitors your connection 24/7 and leaps into action if your broadband ever drops, automatically switching you to a 4G mobile connection within 30 seconds. They’ll give you a £25 credit if it fails to do so.
BT’s business options also include a 4g backup. With Hybrid Backup, your broadband will automatically switch to EE’s 4G network if there’s ever a problem. They also offer Content Controls and Web Protect, which alert you to malware and dangerous websites before they can affect your business, 24/7 technical support, and an app for your mobile phone so that you can use your landline number while you’re out and about. Since November 2022, they’ve also been taking on PlusNet’s business customers.
TalkTalk claims 99.995% availability for their service, as well as 24/7, 365 days a year technical support and a 4-hour fix time Service Level Agreement. This reliability certainly seems to go down well in the business community. TalkTalk states that more than one in ten UK businesses already use their service.
Focus Group may not be as familiar a name to you as Sky, BT or TalkTalk, but they may carry certain benefits that suit your business. Focus Group only deal with business customers, and if you choose them they can offer a high degree of integration with your other systems, as well as more specialised integrated solutions such as passenger wifi for transport and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies such as CCTV, sensors to monitor where people are in your building (which could help save you money on your utility bills) and other types of smart device connectivity.
There is no question that the world of business connectivity is rapidly changing and that your business will benefit from remaining ahead of this particular curve. But since broadband is such an important component of most business needs, it is a decision that you cannot afford to get wrong. And with this in mind, SwitchPal can help! We can compare across the entire market and help you tailor a solution to your specific needs. Contact us today, and start future-proofing your business connectivity!
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