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How does fibre broadband work?

fibre broadband

Providers like Virgin Media, eir, Sky, and Pure Telecom offer fibre broadband in certain areas in Ireland. You can check if fibre is available where you live by entering your town and county into our comparison service.

Here’s how fibre-optic broadband works:

The cables that deliver superfast internet to your house consist of fibre optics. These are tiny reflective tubes about as thick as a human hair. Data is transferred from one end of the cable to the other in the form of flashes of light that bounce of the inner walls of the tubes at the speed of light. The equipment at the receiving end of the cable interprets these flashes of light and it eventually shows as text, image or video on your computer screen.

Fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC)

Often a fibre broadband line doesn’t go directly all the way to a property. Fibre-to-the-cabinet means that the fibre line leads from the exchange to the street cabinet but to get broadband to your house a good old copper line is used.

An exception is Virgin Media, who get broadband from the street cabinet to your home via a coaxial cable, which transmits data faster than a standard phone line.

fibre to the cabinet

Depending on the distance between the street cabinet and your house, internet speeds may vary. The table below should give you an idea of what speeds you can expect, if you know the distance between the street cabinet and your home:

Distance to cabinet (metres) Estimated downstream connection speed Estimated upstream connection speed Cumulative percentage of premises at this distance
100m 100 Mbps 25 Mbps 5%
150m 80 Mbps 20 Mbps 10%
200m 65 Mbps 18 Mbps 20%
300m 45 Mbps 17 Mbps 30%
400m 42 Mbps 16 Mbps 45%
500m 38 Mbps 15 Mbps 60%
600m 35 Mbps 14 Mbps 70%
700m 32 Mbps 11 Mbps 75%
800m 28 Mbps 10 Mbps 80%
900m 25 Mbps 9 Mbps 85%
1000m 24 Mbps 8 Mbps 90%
1250m 17 Mbps 5 Mbps 95%
1500m 15 Mbps 4 Mbps 98%


Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH)

If the fibre-optic line goes all the way from the exchange via the street cabinet to your home, it’s called fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). Alternatively, you’ll also find this referred to as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) or fibre-to-the-building (FTTB). This type of fibre broadband connection is the rarest and only provided by Virgin Media, eir and Pure Telecom.

fibre to the home

Here are a few reasons for getting fibre if it’s available in your area:

  • There are three or more of you in the house, who like to go online every day.
  • You have multiple devices like smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and game consoles connected to your internet.
  • You are streaming and downloading a considerable number of movies and TV shows per week.
  • You love online gaming.
  • You’re working from home and you need to download large files or connect to a VPN.

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