Fibre optic broadband is changing the way people access the internet and transforming the telecoms industry - but has it reached your area yet?
Fibre optic broadband runs through cables in the ground made from plastic or glass, unlike its predecessor ADSL which runs over copper telephone wires.
Fibre optic delivery offers a new generation of broadband - it's quicker at carrying data than traditional copper wires, meaning you can download a song in seconds and films and television programmes in no time at all.
Unlike ADSL, where the speed degrades the further it travels from the local telephone exchange, fibre optic broadband keeps its speed better over long distances. This means that the speed advertised is more likely to be the speed you receive.
If you're looking for superfast broadband then the fibre optic option is the quickest on the market - it's many times faster than ADSL, allowing you to surf the internet at incredibly high speeds. Streaming videos or TV shows will be smoother - 'buffering' could be a word you'll never have to read again. If you're an online gamer, you'll notice less glitches during gaming sessions.
If you're part of a large household who all spend a lot of time online, fibre optic could be the answer to broadband woes. Simultaneous use of the internet across multiple devices can put a lot of strain on an ADSL wireless network, meaning browsing speeds become lethargic.
Fibre optic broadband should be able to manage multiple devices with ease, meaning you can be on a tablet, PC or mobile device and browse, stream or game. Student households and businesses could be amongst those groups that benefit greatly from a fibre optic, rather than ADSL, connection.
Before you consider fibre optic broadband, you'll want to find out if it's reached your area yet
At the time of writing (February 2014), not every broadband provider offers fibre optic.
In 2010, Virgin Media was the only fibre optic provider, but now most mainstream providers offer a fibre optic package.
Before you consider fibre optic broadband, you'll want to find out if it's reached your area yet. Networks are still in the roll-out phase, but fibre optic will soon be in every part of the UK rather than solely in major cities and towns. Of course it's still likely that there will be certain localised exceptions where service is unavailable.
At the time of writing (February 2014), the most basic packages begin at 30Mbps and rise to a maximum of 120Mbps, but there are plans for future services offering 300Mbps.
Fibre optic cables transfer data more reliably that traditional copper cables, so the speed that's advertised is much more likely to be what you receive than with ADSL.
But what speed you can get depends on your area, too - you may be able to access fibre technology, but not at the top speeds.
The fastest recorded broadband speed at the time of writing was 1.4 terabits a second, which was recorded in London during a test by BT and French company Alcatel-Lucent in January 2014. To give some perspective, this allows 44 high definition films to be transmitted in one second.
That type of speed is a long way off in practical terms for consumers, but eventually this type of internet access could become the norm across the country.
Essentially, this depends on how you use the internet. If you only go online to check emails, browse social media and shop, then standard ADSL broadband could be sufficient for your needs. While it doesn't have to be expensive, fibre broadband does cost a bit more than ADSL.
If you need speedy downloads and quick streaming then the cost could be justified - think carefully about what broadband speed you need before deciding on a package.
Remember, like ADSL you'll need to pay line rental in addition to your broadband package
You can expect fibre optic broadband to be a bit pricier than standard ADSL broadband, but if you compare broadband suppliers you could find a deal suited to your budget and with the speed that you need.
Remember, like ADSL you may have to pay line rental in addition to your broadband package, but it is possible to get fibre optic broadband as a standalone option, without a phone line.
Line rental is usually included as part of a broadband bundle. If you don't want a phone line you can choose to avoid it, but you may end up paying the same amount or more anyway - read more about bundles in our beginners' guide to broadband.