Fibre Optic Broadband
It used to be the case that if you wanted to download a movie online, you pretty much had enough time to take a short holiday to Tenerife, get a tan and walk back, before the file had finished. Fibre-optic technology has helped to revolutionise the way we browse the internet and download.
Fibre-optic cables provide a faster and more efficient way of sending digital signals, enabling us to skip between websites and download at superfast speeds. Getting broadband via a fibre-optic connection means much faster download and upload speeds, and more accurate speed predictions from providers.
The data efficiency of fibre-optic broadband connections is so great that they allow for virtually unlimited download limits for broadband customers. Subscribers are free to download as many songs, photos, software updates, patches for games and HD-quality movies without having to worry about eating into a finite usage limit, or even worry about straying over an invisible and undefined fair usage allowance.
The major providers Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and BT are now all offering a fibre-optic broadband service.
Fibre Optic Broadband
Fibre-optic broadband services are delivered over cable connections - bundles of tiny plastic and glass fibres that transmit information via pulses of light forming an electromagnetic wave, which sends information from one end of the cable. This method of information transfer is more efficient than the traditional copper wire phone line method, due to the fact that cable connections can stretch across huge distances without any noticeable difference in connection quality or speed. There is also virtually no 'crosstalk' interference between cables, so connections are also more reliable and less likely to see users being 'dropped' from the internet.
The data efficiency of fibre-optic broadband connections is so great that they allow for virtually unlimited download limits for broadband customers. Subscribers are free to download as many songs, photos, software updates, patches for games and HD-quality movies without having to worry about eating into a finite usage limit, or even worry about straying over an invisible and undefined fair usage.
Whilst there is essentially no limit on downloads, with fibre-optic broadband services there is usually a 'peak time' limit, during which your downloads are restricted. This is because of the nature of how fibre-optic connections are sourced to the home.
In a cable-enabled street, a fibre-optic connection will generally run up to a single nexus in a local area, usually in an exterior cabinet, and all connections from this cabinet then run off underground to individual premises. Because of this shared nature of connections, peak time limits are in place to ensure that there is a level playing field for all customers using the service; one person downloading hundreds of films would mean that other customers who just want to get online to check emails would have trouble doing so.
Currently, Virgin Media's traffic management policy sees a drop in connection speeds for customers exceeding defined download limits between the hours of 10am and 3pm (daytime), as well as 4pm and 9pm (eveing). So, if you're planning on doing some heavy downloading, all you have to do is wait until later in the evening to avoid having your connection dropped.
It's worth mentioning that on average Virgin Media only has to apply traffic management to roughly 5 per cent of their customers, so if you only download a handful of files and updates or a single film or game title during a peak time period, it's unlikely that you'll see your connection dropped.
Sky does not enforce a traffic management policy with its fibre service, whilst BT places restrictions between 4pm and midnight on weekdays, and 9am to midnight during the weekend.
As with ADSL Broadband, when talking about fibre-optic broadband download limits it is important to note that general web use, i.e. browsing sites, using Facebook and Twitter and sending emails, contributes to a download limit. Just because you're not 'downloading' something, doesn't mean that you're not using bandwidth.