Date posted: 3 June 2021 – Category: Fibre Optics
Like a ship cruising through smooth waters, you never notice when your Internet is working perfectly. However, one snag and you become very suddenly aware that the boat is hitting choppy waters or even sinking. Emails failing to send, uploads taking forever, video calls dropping in the middle of a meeting. Bad connectivity can very abruptly grind your business to a halt.
That’s why your choice of network infrastructure is crucial. And one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether to go full-fibre, or stick with an existing copper broadband connection.
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) uses fibre cables to connect to the exchange, but copper or coaxial cables to deliver the last mile to your network. The main disadvantage of FTTC is the bottleneck created by the outdated cables.
Copper cables were first made to transmit voice calls–a middling amount of information compared to the gigabytes of data we upload and download today. Your ISP provider could theoretically be delivering gigabit speeds, only for it to be throttled by old cables. Think of it as trying to squeeze fifty cars through a narrow street: there’s bound to be traffic, even if you took a mega highway to get there.
Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) uses fibre cables along the entirety of the chain, from the exchange to your office or home. The main advantage is speed: fibre cables can transmit data one hundred times faster than traditional copper cables.
The one major disadvantage would be the upfront costs you would have to pay to install fibre to your premises. Most still rely on ancient coaxial and copper cables to deliver broadband from the cabinet to their end devices.
In terms of speed, yes. But speed isn’t the only factor one needs to consider when deciding whether to invest in full-fibre.
Accessibility still hinders widespread adoption of full-fibre connections. Only 21 percent of premises have access to fibre broadband, as of January 2021. If your office’s building falls outside of that group, you’ll have to pay more to get cables installed yourself. This sometimes means digging up the area around the property, which may or may not be allowed by your local city council.
Fibre connections are made of glass. While they’re sheathed in tough materials to protect them from the elements and to prevent data loss, they’re still relatively more delicate than coaxial or twisted pair copper cables. Simply angling fibre cables too sharply around corners can be enough to break the fragile strands within. You’ll need to find reliable technicians who know how to work with fibre.
Second, throttling may not be as big of a pain for some. Signals degrade over long distances. Premises that are near cabinets can still see speeds of up to 80Mb–more than enough for your average small to medium-sized business.
So if full-fibre is pricier, and you can skate by with the speeds afforded by old copper connections, why choose it in the first place?
For one thing, full-fibre is an inevitability. The UK plans to make the entire nation fibre-connected by 2025. An ambitious goal that may not actually manifest until 2027, but one that is nevertheless firmly on the horizon and only getting closer.
The volume of data we’re uploading and downloading will only rise. Cloud is becoming–if not already–ubiquitous for modern businesses. The time will come when old copper connections can no longer feasibly support the computing demands of businesses, or utilise the speeds of newer gigabit networks. Having fibre installed to your premises today gives you an important competitive advantage as this becomes the norm.
The invulnerability of fibre cables to electromagnetic interference, and their ability to keep signal attenuation at a minimum over long distances makes FTTP the better choice for some deployments. For large properties such as universities, or locations that are abuzz with electromagnetic and radio frequency emitting machines like airports, the advantages of FTTP will far outweigh the upfront costs of installing it.
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Ms Belinda Taylor, IT Procurement, Salisbury. NHS Foundation Trust