To Broadband or Not to Broadband, what is the difference?

Everywhere you look these days, providers are talking about superfast broadband. St Peters is one of the areas in Worcester now receiving the fibre optic service that promises to ‘enhance your digital life’.

But what exactly does it all mean? What is it? What makes it better than ‘normal’ broadband? And what will it really mean for you and your computer?

ADSL Broadband, or for the purposes of this article we will call it ‘basic’ broadband, runs over the copper wires, already in place and in use for your homes landline telephone. The broadband signal degrades over distance, and the copper wires, often laid down decades ago are susceptible to environmental wear and tear. The further you are from the telephone ‘exchange’ the worse your signal, and to top it all, the copper wire has a speed limit, so your broadband can only go up to a certain speed. Typical speeds in Worcester are between 3MBps (Megabytes per second) and 6MBps.

Fibre optic Internet runs over special glass cables under the ground. It doesn’t require the copper wires used for your landline like ‘basic’ broadband, so it’s faster and more stable. It is transmitted using light impulses instead of electrical impulses like copper wires. Fibre optic broadband is therefore much faster, allowing the cables to carry more data, at faster speeds allowing download and upload speeds to be greatly increased, as well as allowing more users to access the internet at the same time. Fibre optic also has no upward limit on speed. Speeds in Worcester range from around 35MBps up to 65MBps, depending on your provider and package.

Fibre optic broadband means that downloading movies, playing online games, watching TV online or allowing lots of people in the same household to use the internet at the same time, becomes easier, and much, much faster. If you have more than one person (think children) who require concurrent internet connections for devices such as games consoles, laptops, ipads etc, or if you’re a ‘basic’ broadband user and have ever used the BBC iPlayer, observing the annoying ‘buffer circle’ while your computer loads the next section of film, then maybe Fibre optic is for you.

Examples of how long would it take to download:

A large photo? Basic broadband: 18 seconds. Fibre optic: 1second.
An itunes music album? Basic broadband: 7 minutes. Fibre optic: 40 seconds.
A HD movie? Basic broadband: 1 hour + Fibre optic: 7 minutes.

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