Bishopstone Village FTTP Project

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An Introduction to FTTP, Ultrafast Broadband and How You Will Be Connected

This page is a short, simple introduction to fibre optic technology so that you can understand why it is so much faster and more reliable than copper wires and why you need it in your home and/or business.

What is Data?

Films, pictures, text and sound travel to and from your device (mobile telephone, computer, game console, fridge etc etc) as data, consisting of a series of ones and zeros, as depicted in the banner at the top of this page. This data format was chosen as it easy to transmit as a high or low voltage or as a light beam flashing on and off. It's just like a version of Morse Code and is known as binary code.

To avoid jerky videos and broken sound or waiting a long time for a picture to download this data must be transmitted at a very fast speed, yypically, many millions of ones and zeros per second. This is usually abbreviated to Mb/s (mega-bits per second) and is known as the data rate.

To get this data to your property it must travel along a copper wire, a fibre-optic cable or as a radio wave. The latter is not cheap or effective for personal use so we will now look at copper and fibre technology.

Copper Wire Technology

Copper is used to make wire for electric circuits as it is the second-best room-temperature conductor of electricity we know of (the best is silver which is too expensive to use). Applying a voltage across a copper wire causes electrons to flow along it (like water flowing through a pipe) and these carry the data signals. The thicker the wire, the more electrons are available and the data rate will increase (think of it as a larger diameter water pipe). Although in theory a copper wire can transmit data very fast it is in practice limited to under 100 Mb/s.

This is where the term Broadband now comes in. A simple data message in binary Code in ones and zeros can be sent down a very thin (narrow) wire (or pipe to use that analogy) and this is known as Narrow Band. A complex message with video, photographs and voice requires a larger (broader) wire able to transmit more data. This is known as Broadband.

Unfortunately, as the length of the copper wire increases, an internal resistance to the flow of electrons builds up and the data rate slows down. Typically, the maximum length of standard diameter (1 mm) copper wire that can be used is about 3 km because after that the data rate is too low for any useful purpose.

All internet connections to properties originally used copper wire because it was fast enough for our early devices. There were lots of different network technologies but the most common all-copper network still in use today, is called Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL).

Although relatively cost effective there are issues with using copper wire. It is prone to breaking over time due to metal fatigue, it oxidises and degrades due to climatic conditions and it is susceptible to external electromagnetic interference (e.g. lightening). As our devices have improved and multiplied (even fridges, washing machines and dishwashers now have internet connections) and the features we want to use demand more and faster data, copper wire connections, unless very short (less than 1/2 km) are inadequate. Indeed, Openreach have announced that from 2025 they will no longer support them (although they will be around for many years beyond then). So a new, faster cable-based technology, is required and this is fibre-optics.

Fibre-Optic Technology

Fibre optic technology uses a modulated (flashing) beam of laser light to carry the data. This is bounced down a fibre (see below) of special glass which is nearly ten-times thinner than a human hair. The glass in the fibre is tuned to the frequency (colour) of the laser light and transmits it almost without any loss. This means that even at long distances the data rate is still very high and more than enough to support many devices in a property simultaneously demanding lots of data. A single fibre-optic cable can supply 1 Giga-bit per second (1 Gb/s = 1000 Mb/s) of data to 32 properties without any drop in signal quality or data rate.

Although it is made of glass, because it is incredibly thin it is flexible and very strong (think of fibre-glass cloth before the resin is applied). This fibre is enclosed in layers of other material (as shown below) to protect it and make it easier to handle. The fibre-optic cables that will be installed into Bishopstone will consist of many individual fibres inside a larger cable as shown here.

The data rate of fibre-optic cable compared to copper wire at distance is shown below. As can be seen, within a typically-sized village such as Bishopstone or even a small town, fibre-optic technology will be able to provide Ultrafast Broadband to every property.

FTTC and FTTP Networks

Finally, after explaining the technology, we come to an explanation of what FTTP is and why Bishopstone needs it.

Bishopstone currently has two different Broadband networks. The properties in the western part of the village have a hybrid Broadband network known as Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC). As shown below, this has a fibre-optic cable from the exchange (Broad Chalke in this case) to a street cabinet on High Road (adjacent to the playing fields). From there the connection to premises in the village is by copper wire with the problems noted above. Those lucky people in Flamstone and adjacent Streets can receive a data rate of 70 Mb/s whereas those in Faulston Barns are lucky if they receive 15 Mb/s. Because of the copper network, when lots of people want to access the internet, these data rates drop dramatically and often become unusable. The network is also unstable and many premises find that their broadband will drop out for no reason.

The few lucky properties in the eastern part of the village, who are served from the Coombe Bissett exchange, have what is known as Fibre To The Premises (FTTP). This is a full fibre network capable of supplying reliable Ultrafast Broadband (up to 1 Gb/s) to every property. This is what the Bishopstone FTTP Project Team is trying to have made available to every property that wants it in the village.

Assuming all goes well with our application and enough people in the village sign up to wanting FTTP then Openreach will install it as described above to nodes close to each property. From those nodes, which will be located either down manholes or on telegraph poles, the fibre will be routed into your property by your preferred Internet Service Provider (ISP).

FTTP Installation to your Property

Your preferred Internet Service Provider (ISP e.g. BT, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Sky) will install the fibre from the nearest Openreach node to your property. Please watch the following video on YouTube to to see how this was done by BT into someone's property. This useful video will answer many of your questions.

Click this link ---- FTTP - BT - Openreach

Currently, it appears from our investigations, that ISPs are making this connection from the nearest Openreach node into your property either for free or for a minimal cost (£9 was one quote). This seems to be dependent on what package (speed and contract length) you sign up to but as the ISPs have told us, the situation is volatile and will undoubtedly change to reflect the country's economic situation at the time you take out your new contract.

I hope you found this a useful and understandable introduction to FTTP and Ultrafast Broadband. If you would like to know more there are a myriad of resources available on the internet. I do hope you have a high enough data rate to download them!

Bishopstone FTTP Project