Tech Talk: Can you get fibre broadband? And do you need it?

CABLE GUY: BT engineers are rewiring the cables between the telephone exchange and the green roadside cabinets near your home.

CABLE GUY: BT engineers are rewiring the cables between the telephone exchange and the green roadside cabinets near your home.

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IS your house on the fast lane of the information superhighway? Or do you have a Reliant Robin connection chugging along some back road in no particular hurry?

BT has just announced that more of us will soon be able to get its “superfast” broadband service, with 15 new exchanges across Yorkshire scheduled to come on stream. These will deliver broadband to homes and businesses at up to 40 megabits per second.

How fast is that? Well, 40Mb is around eight times faster than the current average UK speed – but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. As on the concrete superhighway, the trick is to go as fast as you need, without losing sight of the economy meter.

Superfast is delivered by means of fibre-optic cables, replacing the old copper ones, between the telephone exchange and the green BT roadside cabinets near your house. For this reason, the service is known technically as Fibre To The Cabinet, or FTTC.

BT’s wholesale arm installs the necessary cabling, then makes the service available to retailers (including itself) who sell it on to you under a variety of brand names. Currently, the cheapest price is around £17 a month – but that should fall over the next year as the number of resellers doubles to around 100.

FTTC is the third generation of broadband to become available in Britain, and will eventually supersede the standard known as ADSL2, which offers speeds of up to 20Mb – but at the moment, that’s where the bargains are to be found.

ADSL2 is more than fast enough for any of the content currently out there, including programmes on the BBC iPlayer in high definition.

But be aware that the cheapest deals can be very restrictive, with draconian limits placed on the amount of data you can download every month, and “speed bumps” put in place at peak periods, to spread the load. I’ve listed the soon-to-be-enabled fibre-optic exchanges below and you’ll notice they have one thing in common: they’re in reasonably well-populated areas.

In the countryside it’s a different story, and though there’s no technical barrier to faster rural broadband, there is a funding gap.

• The following exchanges in Yorkshire are currently enabled for fibre broadband:

ARMLEY

BEAUCHIEF

BROOMHILL

CALDER VALLEY

CASTLEFORD

GARFORTH

GUISELEY

HALIFAX

HARROGATE

HEADINGLEY

LOFTHOUSE GATE

LOW MOOR

MORLEY

MOSBOROUGH

PONTEFRACT

PUDSEY

RANMOOR

ROTHWELL, WEST YORKSHIRE

SHIPLEY

YORK

• These Yorkshire exchanges have been earmarked for upgrading to fibre in the next 18 months:

BURLEY-IN-WHARFEDALE

ASKERN

BALBY

BARNBY DUN

BARNSLEY

BINGLEY

CANTLEY

CUDWORTH

DARTON

DUDLEY HILL

HAXBY

ILKLEY

KNOTTINGLEY

MALTON

NORMANTON

OTLEY

SEACROFT

THIRSK

UNDERCLIFFE

WOMBWELL

CULLINGWORTH

DINNINGTON

ELLAND

FILEY

HAWORTH

HOLMFIRTH

MALTBY

MIRFIELD

MOORTOWN

ROYSTON, SOUTH YORKSHIRE

SANDAL

STOCKSBRIDGE

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