Understanding Broadband Speeds Core

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Distinguishing your FTTP from your FTTC, and your Mbps from your Gbps

Do you find all the talk around broadband speeds confusing? Well, you’re not alone, so let us try and help. Broadband speeds are determined by a combination of factors including bandwidth, connection type, distance, congestion and service plan, to name a few. Once you understand the meaning and potential impact of these things you can make a more informed decision on the plan that you need. Hopefully this will go some way to help!

Common terms

Connection type: Each type of connection has its own maximum potential speeds and limitations. When comparing fibre broadband specifically, the key thing to remember is that fibre-optic cable transmits data as light, whereas copper cable transmits data as electricity, and light travels faster than electricity. Physics lesson over, let’s look at this in different terms. Fibre optic cable (full-fibre or FTTP) has a very large bandwidth, meaning that it can manage the transfer of huge amounts of data really quickly. Copper cable (FTTC) on the other hand, has a much narrower bandwidth which limits the amount of data it can transmit at once, leading to much slower speeds.

Bandwidth: Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted at one time. Think of full-fibre technology as a big fat drainpipe allowing lots of water to flow really quickly without delays. In this same way huge amounts of data can pass through fibre optic cables smoothly and quickly for the best possible internet experience. Copper cable is more like having narrow pipes that water trickles through slowly – and in real terms data that moves slowly results in a less enjoyable experience.

Throughput: Throughput is the actual amount of data that is transmitted over a network connection within a specific timeframe. It can be affected by things like network congestion (the amount of people/devices using the connection at the same time), signal interference, and the quality of the connection.

Network infrastructure: The quality and capacity of the network infrastructure (or the ‘kit’, including cables, routers, switches etc) can impact broadband speeds. Upgrades to infrastructure can improve speeds and reliability.

Distance: For certain types of broadband connections, like FTTC where copper cabling brings the data on its final journey from the cabinet into your home, the distance between the user’s location and the cabinet in their street can affect speeds. Longer distances will result in slower speeds.

Network congestion: During peak usage times, such as evenings when many people are streaming videos or gaming, networks can get very congested. This can lead to slower speeds as the available bandwidth is shared among more users.

Service plan: Broadband service providers typically offer different service plans with varying speeds and pricing. Customers can choose a plan based on their internet usage habits, number of devices connected, and desired speed.

How speed is measured

So that’s the key terms covered, but what about the way speeds are measured? Any speeds you see quoted will refer to the speed that data can be delivered over a network connection. This is typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps), or gigabits per second (Gbps).

How about some tangible examples?

It’s not easy to give hard and fast rules as the time it takes to download content can vary significantly depending on things like file size, the speed and quality of your internet connection, and even the efficiency of the server hosting that content. As a rough guide though, here are some examples of how long it might take to download a movie on different types of internet connections:

Fixed Wireless

Fixed wireless connections can vary in speed depending on the provider and the conditions of the connection. However, assuming a speed of around 10Mbps, it would take around 20-25 minutes to download a 2GB movie.


FTTC speeds can very depending on things like distance from the cabinet, congestion or the line quality at any point in time. With a typical speed of around 20Mbps, downloading a 2GB movie would take around 10-15 minutes.


FTTP is the very latest, fastest and most reliable technology available. With speeds ranging from 100Mbps to 1Gbps or higher, downloading a 2GB movie takes no time at all. At 100Mbps, it would take around 2-3 minutes, and at 1Gbps, it would literally take seconds.

All clear?

Hopefully, you’re now much clearer on how internet speeds work and feel you can make a well-informed decision on what sort of broadband package you need. Don’t forget, our ultrafast full-fibre broadband is the very latest technology available, and will future-proof your home for whatever WiFi-related needs come your way for many years to come. Don’t hesitate to talk to our friendly team on 0330 236 9900 if you need any more information.