Dan Howdle | January 9th, 2023
If you've heard these two terms bandied about recently (FTTC and FTTP), it's because they are the rather technical-sounding abbreviations for the type of broadband we currently have, and the type of broadband the UK is slowly migrating to in future.
The technologies aren't all that different. Nevertheless, in this guide we'll discuss those differences, both in terms of the technologies themselves and in terms of what they can deliver. We'll also look at which providers offer FTTC and FTTP broadband, and whether or not now is a good time to upgrade from one to the other, if indeed you can. To start with, though, we'll thrash out some basic definitions so we all understand exactly what it is we are talking about. We will be keeping this as jargon-free as possible, because although technical, it's not actually all that difficult to understand.
FTTC stands for 'fibre to the cabinet'. The fibre part of the equation is fibre broadband, which is defined as a broadband connection which is delivered over fibre optic cables. Unlike copper cables, fibre has a glass core, which enables information to be transmitted through them using light rather than electrical signals. Fibre optic cables can deliver data at rates thousands of times faster than copper cables.
The 'cabinet' in that abbreviation refers to the green cabinets you will have seen on street corners and pavements. Fibre optic lines are routed into these cabinets, but then the remaining distance between the cabinet and your home is covered by slower, copper cables. Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), then, really means 'fibre cables only as far as the cabinet', with the copper element covering the final distance, slowing down the potential top speed of your broadband significantly.
There are currently two major broadband networks that use FTTC. They are:
FTTP and FTTH are two different abbreviations for the same thing. FTTP stands for 'fibre to the premises' and FTTH stands for 'fibre to the home'. They are used interchangeably, along with ‘Ultrafast’ and ‘Full Fibre’. Unlike FTTC, FTTP broadband is delivered via fibre optic cables not only as far as the cabinet, but across the entire distance to your home or business. The net result is that, generally speaking, it's able to deliver broadband speeds far higher than a typical FTTC connection.
At the time we last updated this page (January 2023), FTTP broadband was growing, but still very limited in terms of availability across the UK. It's a postcode lottery basically – where around 6.5 million properties are currently winners. That means you have almost a one in four chance of being somewhere it's available. The Networks (as opposed to providers) that are either 100% FTTP – or offer FTTP to some of their customers – are listed below.
Given the definitions in the two sections above, you may have concluded that the differences between FTTC and FTTP/FTTH broadband are obvious – one is adequate, while the other can be quite insanely fast. That's true to a point, but the lines are a little blurry. For example, there is a technology known as GFast that can significantly boost the speeds achievable with FTTC. However, it's not available everywhere, and FTTP really is superior. It's often marketed as 'Ultrafast', which only adds to the confusion.
Further muddying the waters is the very, very fast network operated by Virgin Media, whose version of FTTC technology employs superior multi-core cables that can deliver speeds on a par with, and in excess of FTTP. There’s also the fact that some Openreach providers, including BT, EE, TalkTalk, Shell Energy Broadband and Vodafone are now offering FTTP connections courtesy of Openreach’s fast expanding FTTP network, which offers Full Fibre speeds of up to 900Mbps to those areas connected.
Add to all this the fact that pure FTTP providers with their own networks such as Hyperoptic and Gigaclear also offer broadband packages at normal speeds, equivalent to those offered on FTTC, and you'll appreciate it's quite a complicated situation!
It doesn't necessarily stand to reason then that just because your broadband deal is FTTP means it's going to be faster, nor that if your connection is FTTC it's going to be slower. The line between the two can still be a thin one.
Here are the most common speeds currently available via these technologies.
FTTC is the type of broadband you're going to be getting from most UK providers, including Virgin Media, even though Virgin Media speeds are next-level faster. Here are the providers with whom you're most likely to find an FTTC broadband deal.
Use our broadband availability checker, to find the best broadband deals in your area.
There are a few notable providers on the Openreach network offering FTTP broadband, but availability is still limited at this moment to approximately 25% of UK homes. We should expect availability of FTTP full fibre to expand significantly across the next few years.
FTTP is only available in a limited number of locations and you would definitely know if you had it. To find out what speed you are currently receiving, you can run a speed test. Anything over 80Mbps is likely to be powered by Virgin or FTTP. There are exceptions, such as those services utilising GFast technology which basically maximises old fashioned FTTC connections – potentially up to 330Mbps. But you'd have had to specifically purchase one of those packages, and they come at a premium.
Absolutely, yes. FTTP is capable of far higher speeds and typically also offers symmetrical speeds where your upload speed is the same as your download speed. FTTC on the other hand has a much lower speed ceiling and upload speeds are typically a fraction of download speeds. FTTC can be speeded up using at technology called GFast – but even then it can't rival FTTP for speed or, it seems, price.
At present, yes. It usually is. Aside from Openreach's network installation costs, there's nothing about FTTP that makes it much more expensive, therefore prices are not dramatically higher, though you will likely find providers charging more for it since, as with any new technology, early adopters tend to be less price sensitive. And naturally, the very highest speeds do command a premium.