Sunday , September 20 2020

Will broadband be outdated by 2030 – and what about 5G?


Fiber optic cablesImage copyright
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Labor has pledged to give every home and business in the UK free full-fiber broadband by 2030 if it wins the general election.

The plan would give millions more properties with full fiber access, though Prime Minister Boris Nonson said it was a "transition scheme".

If the plan went ahead and completed on time, would it still be useful in 2030?

What is Broadband with Fiber?

There are three main types of broadband connection that connect local telephone exchange to your home or office:

  • ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) Uses Cabinet Copper Cables at Street Level or Junction Box and to the House
  • The FTTC (Cabinet Fiber) uses a faster fiber optic cable to the cabinet, but then a copper cable from there to the house
  • FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) uses fiber optic cable to connect to households without using copper cable

The old landline telephone infrastructure across the UK used copper cables, but access to the Internet via copper cables is slower than fiber optic cables.

Fiber optic cables are made of glass or plastic and use light pulses to transmit data, offering much faster Internet access.

Full fiber broadband refers to FTTP connection: the entire line from telephone exchange to your home uses fiber optic cables.

How fast is a full strand?

Currently, the UK government is defining super fast broadband has speeds of more than 30 Mbps (Mbps). Megabits per second is the standard Internet speed measurement.

Ultrafast is defined as speeds above 100Mbps.

The fiber-to-copper (FTTC) connection can reach speeds of around 66Mbps.

But full fiber connection (FTTP) – copper-free – can offer much faster average speeds of one gigabit per second (Gbps) – that's 1,000Mbps.

Whole fibers can also deliver very low latency: this means less delay between sending a request and receiving a response.

This is not only important for video gamers. Low latency links promise new opportunities for teleworking, especially in fast-paced industries that can't afford delays.

There are other types of very fast connection, too. Virgin Media uses a different type of cable for the last part that enters your home, which in theory can offer speeds of up to 10Gbps.

There is also a service called, which uses a special floor to accelerate the speed of a standard copper cable connection.

Will full fibers become obsolete in 2030?

Predicting the future of technology is obviously difficult.

But full-fiber broadband, where ultra-fast fiber optic cables carry data directly to your home or office, is currently the "gold standard".

"There is no doubt that we need fiber connectivity, especially at home. It's something that everyone has in the industry and the political parties, "said Matthew Haut, a analyst at United Research.

While high-fiber connections can currently promise speeds of one gigabit per second, future upgrades could offer terabytes per second. (One terabyte equals 1,000 gigabits.)

This could be made possible by replacing the equipment at one end of the cables – in the telephone exchange and at home – without installing new cables.

If 2030 came, new technology emerging, and countries thinking about replacing their full fiber systems, Britain would start in the same direction.

Why invest in fiber instead of 5G?

Wireless connections can be a useful way to connect remote homes to the Internet, but 5G may not be the answer for sparsely populated areas.

5G networks can operate at several different frequencies, but higher frequencies do not penetrate buildings and trees, as well as at lower frequencies.

Using those high frequencies requires a lot more transmitters, closer to homes and offices that need internet access.

And so-called nano-masts are usually connected to the Internet's fiber backbone.

"Investment in fiber also enhances fixed line services and helps support the connectivity of many new nano-masts needed for high speed 5G," said Andrew Ferguson of news site.

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Cover image

High frequency 5G will require more transmitters

However, the government plans to auction a lower-frequency spectrum – free of digital TV switching – for 5G services.

"The 700MHz frequency band to be auctioned is good in the coverage of large rural areas," Mr Haut said.

"Everything that is released from analogue to digital television broadcasting means you can reach more people with fewer base stations."

However, even if the UK focused on national 5G coverage, guaranteeing a stable connection to every home would be difficult.

Atmospheric conditions can lead to variation in latency with wireless connections.

"The problem with the last leg still being wireless is easily illustrated by the problems people are having with existing Wi-Fi," Ferguson said.

"People often find that they can't cover their entire home without additional wireless repeaters.

"And at worst, a double-decker bus could park between you and the street lamp.

"Full fiber in the building technically gives a much better experience and avoids variables that 5G can't always overcome."

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