Fibre Optic Broadband – BT Infinity – What’s the hype?

Bunch of fibre optic cables

Courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons. Original location and license information

I am always keen to see new technology being rolled out and even as a youth (in the 80s) I

remember getting excited about fibre optic technology. So, has it finally arrived? And is it as exciting as it sounds, or is it like Virtual Reality or 3D (yes, I remember 3D movies in the 1980s too, I predict it will fail to take off again this time too)

Firstly, what are the main advantages of fibre optic?

A major advantage is that its signal does not degrade over distance as much as copper. This allows for long cable runs without the need for attenuators / repeaters every few miles to boost the signal .

Another advantage is the huge speeds it is capable of (up tp 111Gigabits/sec) – however, copper is also capable of great speeds. A Cat 6 cable (available for less than £5) is capable of transmitting 10Gigabits/sec,  more than 1000 times faster than a typical broadband connection of 8Megabits/sec.

A third, little discussed advantage is security. Copper is much easier to eavesdrop on than fibre optic. A device can be placed on a telephone cable to tap an ADSL connection. This cannot be done with Fibre optic as it doesn’t leak an electric or magnetic field. Eavesdropping would only be possible at cable junctions.

Practical Rollout Of Fibre Optic Broadband (BT Infinity)

BT Infinity is the product BT is rolling out across the UK that plans to offer speeds of up to 300Megabits/sec.

How will this affect consumers in Pembrokeshire? Well, it will be a while before it arrives here. No exchanges are currently on the list for 2011/2012 and BT plans for two-thirds UK coverage by 2014. So, I fear Pembrokeshire is likely to be the 1/3 not to get it.

Does it matter?

Not really. Most home users have little need for speeds in excess of 8Meg. For larger organisations, such as government, and large offices, faster speeds would give benefits when 100s of users have to share a single line.

My gripe is that the marketing material by BT and other providers gives the impression that the main benefit of fibre optic is speed. This is definitely not the case for current usage as copper is capable of speeds 1000s of times greater than its current usage.


3 Responses to “Fibre Optic Broadband – BT Infinity – What’s the hype?”

  1. Simon Says:

    Thats all very interesting – but some of us are still struggling along on with speeds less than 1 Meg – When can we expect to see those speeds improving to something reasonable – like 4 Meg

  2. adampembs Says:

    Good point, and indeed some areas are still without broadband. The relatively slow speed of some ADSL services is usually due to the degradation of signal along the copper between you and your exchange, a useful graph can be found here
    To measure the distance from the exchange, try this
    Note that this is as the crow flies, the copper line tends to follow roads, so could be much further.

  3. BT Infinity – Superfast Broadband for all Wales by 2015 « PC Rescue Says:

    […] Fibre Optic Broadband – BT Infinity – What’s the hype? […]

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