What is Superfast Broadband?

According to Ofcom (the communications regulator in the UK), superfast broadband "offers speeds of 30Mbit/s or more". This is will a significant improvement in speed if you are currently using standard broadband.

There are 3 types of broadband connection:

ADSLADSL is standard broadband delivered over the copper telephone line.
FibreFibre technology uses fibre-optic lines. Speeds are faster than ADSL. There are two main types:
Ultrafast full fibre, which involves fibre optic cables running directly to homes, and Superfast fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), which uses a mixture of fibre-optic cables and copper wires.
Most of the fibre broadband in the UK is FTTC or Cable.
CableCable technology is used to deliver superfast home broadband over cable TV networks.

The primary difference between standard broadband and FTTC is that rather than receiving your broadband connection directly from the exchange over copper wires, a fibre-optic cable is run to a local "cabinet" which the copper wire is connected to. Broadband uses radio-frequency transmissions along the copper wires and these are very susceptible to deterioration over longer lines. This is why, on standard broadband, being in a rural environment (where the copper cables can run up to 10km or more) the speeds are very poor.

With FTTC, the copper wire is much shorter (typically 50m to 1km) enabling a wider range of frequencies to be used (higher frequencies degrade faster), providing much faster speeds.

The one downside with FTTC over standard broadband is that the speeds degrade much faster, as illustrated by the graph to the right.

Ofcom have produced a useful consumer guide that provides a summary of fixed-line broadband performance. It should be noted, however, that there is no Cable provision for any homes connected to the Turville Heath exchange. Also, the majority of homes, when the have been enabled for superfast broadband, will receive FTTC. Some properties (specifically those that are considered too far from their local cabinet) may be included in a FTTP (fibre-to-the-property) rollout, which does not suffer degradation in the same way as FTTC.

There are alternatives to fibre-based superfast broadband which may be available in your area.