Fibre broadband

Fibre broadband

Earlier this week, my broadband speed went from being slower than 62% of Ireland to being faster than 95% of Ireland. The difference was fibre broadband installation, which is now available in Monaghan (and many other towns / cities in Ireland)…

Fibre is to broadband was broadband was to dialup

This has been a  long time coming…  ever since broadband was introduced (in the early 2000’s) speeds have climbed from about 1mb to 7mb in *most* places. In larger urban areas that crept up to 24mb. So fibre is a big deal. It is to broadband what broadband was to dialup.

A few weeks ago, I uploaded over 800 photos from my trip to Rome to my Flickr. They totaled about 4GB in size and took about 20 hours to upload (upload speed of 0.4mb). Were i to upload the exact same photos now, it would take about 30 minutes. Still a significant amount of time, but much more acceptable.

wireless router

For most ‘average’ users, they won’t see an improvement in general web browsing… anything above about 5mb is more than adequate for watching youtube videos, browsing facebook & reading news sites etc… in fact a new PC would probably give you a bigger performance boost in doing those things than fibre broadband will.

But what fibre will do is slowly get you into the habit of uploading more stuff. It’ll allow you to effortlessly stream stuff in HD or watch 1080p youtube videos without you ever having to worry about the red bar catching up with the gray bar… if you’re in the dwindling minority who download TV shows or movies on a regular basis, you’ll also notice a huge difference.

Before & After

DSL speed test

VDSL speed test

Fibre to the home -v- Fibre to the cabinet

The vast majority of fibre broadband offered in Ireland is not fibre to the home. That would quite simply be too expensive and time consuming to implement. Instead, thousands of new cabinets  have been installed around the country and placed mainly around urban areas. Most fibre-enabled estates will have a new green cabinet at the entrance alongside an old green cabinet. The new cabinet will look just like the one in this video…

To check if there’s any near you, this crowd-sourced map of cabinets around the country may help..

These cabinets are connected by fibre directly to the exchange (which will usually be in the middle of a large urban hub). Your home will not be connected by fibre to the cabinet however.. it’ll be connected by existing copper wire. However, your nearby cabinet will now virtually act as the exchange, so that’s the reason for the massive speed boost. Your exchange might be 5km away but if you have a cabinet 200m away from your door, then it’s *almost* as if the exchange is 200m away. If you happen to have fibre going from the cabinet to your house, then it would *almost* be like having the exchange in your house… the net result would mean that if you signed to a 70mb package with an ISP, you’d get 70mb. Currently, 70mb is the maximum speed available to most of us new fibre customers, but there are plans to bump this up to 100mb next year. Or i should say ‘up to’ 100mb.

With fibre to the cabinet you more than likely won’t get 70mb, but if you’re within about 500m of the cabinet, you should come close (60mb+). This is the reason for the controversial ‘up to’ wording all ISPs will include in their advertisements. It’s technically accurate but it’s also massively frustrating as you’re instantly disappointed if you can’t get 70mb. It’s up to the government to force ISPs to advertise average speeds or minimum speeds which would of course make much more sense for consumers and leave them feeling less hard done by.

Anyway, i’m about 300m away from my nearest cabinet (driving distance) and on a 50mb down/20mb up connection, i’m getting about 47mb down / 16mb up. So this is why (in most cases) fibre to the home isn’t worth it… particularly in urban / suburban places where homes tend to be bunched together anyway… copper is perfectly acceptable over short distances and there’s no point in replacing it to get a measly 5% boost in performance.

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