Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Internet: The Future for Online Gaming


Fibre to the Home

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We have covered Fibre to the Home (FTTH) internet availability in the UK in another article on the site, but which markets is FTTH most useful for? Obviously, gigabit internet speeds are great for people downloading large files, but what about online gamers? Can they benefit from having a Fibre to the Home internet connection?

In this article we argue that online gamers potentially have the most to gain from FTTH internet out of any target audience because of the immense speeds at which fibre optic cables can transmit online traffic. For online gamers latency is key and FTTH internet has the ability to reduce latency or lag down to an absolute minimum as is transmits the data through fibre optic cables all the way to their home with no copper lines slowing gaming traffic down. Let’s look in more detail at how FTTH can benefit online gamers.

fibre optic internet cable

FTTH delivers fibre all the way to the premises, not just to the nearest street cabinet

Fibre to the Home Internet – A Brief Outline

A Fibre to the Home (FTTH) connection is where internet is delivered on fibre optic cables all the way to a consumers home and not just to the nearest street cabinet or telephone exchange. This is distinct from Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) packages which deliver traffic via fibre to the street cabinet and then usually via copper from the cabinet the the consumer’s house.

Fibre optic cables can carry much more data more reliably with less interference than standard copper wiring, hence a full FTTH package can deliver higher bandwidth and potentially lower latency than a standard FTTC connection. The best FTTC package from Virgin Media can deliver up to 350 mbps download speed and around 20 mbps upload speed, whereas with a FTTH connection download AND upload speeds of 1000 mbps (1 gigabit per second) are easily achieveable, with plenty more unlockable potential in the future as well.

Unfortunately, FTTH coverage in the UK is still low, with a best guess of 4-5% or just over a million UK properties having access as of mid 2018. Certain European countries (particularly Scandinavian and Eastern European countries) are way ahead in FTTH coverage because their Governments and ISPs began targeting full fibre rollout in the mid 2000s in some cases.

The UK has only recently begun to catch up with a roll out of FTTH coverage, with the Government launching it’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to help areas where coverage is poor get connected. The two major UK ISPs, BT and Virgin Media, do offer FTTH packages in a limited number of areas but they do not focus on them in their marketing. They prefer to focus on the cheaper to install FTTC packages, though they are slowly expanding FTTH coverage in certain areas.

There are however a growing number of smaller ISPs specifically installing FTTH internet in different areas round the country, with gigabit packages being offered as standard in most cases. In some rural areas, such as those covered by Gigaclear, installation is expensive, running into several hundred pounds, but in other areas it is surprisingly cheap, with low cost packages and cheap or free installation offers.

Our personal favourite for cheap packages is Hyperoptic, who operate in a large number of cities and whose network is growing rapidly after attracting significant investment. Some London based FTTH providers such as Community Fibre, Vision Fibre Media and Pure Fibre also offer great value packages with often completely free installation. Check out our article on UK FTTH providers, we have also embedded a quick comparison table further down the page.

How Can This Benefit Online Gamers?

As we have gone into in another article, latency is actually far more important than bandwidth for online gaming. Download and Upload speeds are not that important beyond a bare minimum for most online gaming. See this video for example from networking expert John Glasscock where he demonstrates that even manually restricting his bandwidth to 5mbps download and 1 mbps upload, it is still more than enough to play Fortnite online.

The really important thing for online gaming to run smoothly is low latency (also known as lag or ping), which is the time gaming traffic takes to be sent from a console to a server or other console and back again.

This is a separate issue from bandwidth and is the crucial factor which determines whether online gaming runs smoothly or not. We have gone into detail on different ways you can reduce lag for online gaming in a couple of articles (see here and here).

A Fibre to the Home package is by definition “fibre all the way”, with no copper lines slowing data down; hence network latency is super low on these connections. Traffic is sent along super fast fibre optic cables the whole way to and from the premises, meaning that latency can be reduced to an absolute minimum on a FTTH connection. There is no copper wiring for the last hundred yards or so which can arguably add to latency.

Online Gamers

Online Gamers can definitely benefit from the low latency and strong upload speeds a fibre to the home connection can provide

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Does a Fibre to the Home Connection Really Reduce Latency?

This is a complex question, as theoretically one could argue that there shouldn’t really be that much difference in latency between a standard fibre (fibre to the cabinet) package and a fibre to the home package, even though the bandwidth potential is definitely higher on FTTH connections.

Standard FTTC packages are usually fibre most of the way if not quite all the way anyway though, with the connection being copper wired usually from the street cabinet or hub to the customer’s home, usually up to several hundred meters.

Over this sort of distance then theoretically latency should be the same between copper and fibre as they are meant to both be able to transfer data at exactly the same speed, certainly over short distances. Over longer distances fibre optic does have an advantage as it degrades less and thus needs less frequent “boosting” of the signal than copper does.

However what do Fibre to the home users actually report in reality when testing their FTTH packages for latency and ping? In the case of Hyperoptic at least, our number one recommended FTTH provider, ping times are exceptionally low using a FTTH package, lower than can usually be acheived on a standard FTTC cabinet package.

See this review page for example where several users often report extremely low ping times testing from UK to UK servers, often below 5 milliseconds, and under 20 milliseconds for Western EU servers. Good luck getting those ping times on a standard fibre optic package! Whilst they will be decent enough, they will not get near the ping times quoted for a full FTTH package. More reviews are available here.

Why exactly there is this difference in latency between FTTH and FTTC packages is not certain; we have just observed that anecdotally people on FTTH packages report very low latency or ping times that even people on standard fibre optic packages will struggle to match.

Perhaps it is something to with how some current FTTC packages are wired; in some cases the connection is copper for more than a few hundred meters or perhaps to the local exchange, which will probably lead to signal degradation over copper and may necessitate boosters that can add to latency. In these cases a FTTH connection will make a more noticeable difference.

What is clear from user reviews and experience testing latency on FTTH connections is that for many there does appear to be an improvement in latency in reality, even though some people may argue there shouldn’t be much of a difference in theory. Of course this may not be guaranteed for everyone but it is something to consider for gamers who want lower ping times.

If you are looking for least delay time possible for traffic being sent from console to console, which online gamers definitely do, then these low ping times below 20 seconds even to western Europe are exactly what you need for the best online experience. Add this to other steps like using Port Forwarding and Open NAT type and you will be sorted for online gaming.

bandwidth internet speeds

Bandwidth tests results will be off the charts on a FTTH connection, but latency or ping times are often also impressively low with fibre to the home internet

Best Experience For Online Gaming

The benefit to gamers of FTTH internet then is pretty clear. If latency is the most important factor for online gamers and FTTH connections deliver the lowest network latency, then they are the ideal packages for online gamers to have installed in they are available.

Also FTTH providers are often able to offer symmetrical packages, meaning that their download and upload speeds are identical, even up to 1 Gigabit/sec both ways. This is distinct from most standard fibre packages where the upload speed is significantly lower then the download speed.

This ability to offer strong upload as well as download speeds is perfect for gamers who like to upload and stream their content a lot, and also those who like to host online sessions a lot, as these both require strong upload speed to do so. A symmetrical FTTH package such as Hyperoptic’s 150MB/s symmetrical package will easily provide you with the bandwidth to do this.

Of course the very high download and upload speeds also provided by FTTH packages can also help out in houses with multiple heavy bandwidth users streaming videos or movies or downloading large files. The main benefit to online gamers though is the super low latency of FTTH internet.

If they combine that with properly configured Quality of Service on their router to prioritise gaming traffic over other traffic, as well as using Port Forwarding and Open Nat Type to fully open their console up to the internet, then they should have no problems at all with lag no matter how many people are using the internet at the same time.

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Availability of FTTH Internet in the UK

How widespread is Fibre to the Home internet in the UK then? In short, it is not widely available at the moment but coverage is growing rapidly and set to really escalate in the next few years as current providers expand their networks. Online gamers who want a FTTH connection to get the best online gaming experience may struggle at the moment but hopefully not for much longer.

The two main fibre broadband providers, BT and Virgin Media, are installing FTTH coverage in certain areas of the UK, but they are not currently pushing these packages to the public. Rather, if you sign up for one of their high speed premium packages and you live in one of their FTTH installation areas then they may offer you a FTTH installation as part of the package.

Some of Virgin Media’s Vivid 200 and 350 packages for example, will be offered as FTTH installations if you live in their FTTH roll out area. See this article for a rough coverage map for their roll out. Similarly BT offer some of their Ultrafast packages as FTTH installations in a small number of areas, but they are not advertising them to the public at large just yet.

However there are some providers who are installing in a large number of cities in the UK. Hyperoptic are our number one choice for FTTH installations, as they are a rapidly growing company operating in plenty of major cities. They offer superb value FTTH packages starting at just £19 per month with a £240 installation fee, and would be ideal for online gamers wanting to keep their latency down to a minimum.

They currently operate in the following cities: Greater London, Basildon, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Preston, Reading, Reigate, Sheffield, Slough, Southamption, Southend-on-Sea, Warrington, Watford, Woking. They are also set to increase coverage to around 50 UK cities by Q1 2019.

If you live in one of these areas it is definitely worth visiting their site and checking out their packages and availability. If they are not installing in your exact location then it is possible to register your interest with them and if you can convince enough nearby friends and family to do the same then they will install. They tend to install in multiple occupancy dwellings (ie. large blocks of flats) at present but coverage is expanding quickly with plans to hit 500,000 homes by 2019 and 2 million by 2022.

Elsewhere Gigaclear are another independant FTTH ISP with a decent coverage area in the counties to the North and West of London. They tend to target rural areas and as such their packages and installation are quite expensive. Nevertheless any online gamers living in their catchment area might want to check them out.

For gamers based in London there are quite a few FTTH providers dotted around, but we have picked out three that offer great value packages: Community Fibre, Vision Fibre Media and Pure Fibre. They all offer excellent value packages with free installation as standard.

There are many more FTTH providers across the country and we will not list them all here. We have imported the quick comparison table from our full article on UK FTTH packages so you can see at a glance the packages offered by some of the main providers in different parts of the country.

ProviderPackage 1 (DL/UL Speeds - mbps)Package 2Package 3Prices per Month (Initial Term)Upfront CostsArea Served
Hyperoptic30/1150/1501000/1000£19 - £48 (12 months)£240See below*
Gigaclear50/50200/200900/900£41.30 - £76.60 (15 months)£229See here*
Community Fibre40/40200/200920/920£20 - £50 (12 months)FreeLondon - Westminister, Wandsworth, Camden
Vision Fibre Media50/50100/1001000/1000From £35 (12 months)FreeLondon
Pure Fibre5/1*100/100500/500£15 - £60 (Monthly)Free*London - Greenwich Peninsula
B4NR1000/1000--£30 (Monthly)£150Rural Lancashire - see map
Cambridge Fibre500/10900/20900/40£32 - £48 UnknownCambridgeshire
Trooli300/100500/2001000/300£50 - £80 (18 months)£80Kent - see map

* Hyperoptic available in: Greater London, Basildon, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Preston, Reading, Reigate, Sheffield, Slough, Southamption, Southend-on-Sea, Warrington, Watford, Woking.

*Gigaclear available in: Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Devon , Somerset , Essex, Gloucester, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire , Kent, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, West Berkshire

*Pure Fibre – for their entry level 5/1 mbps package you can either pay £15 per month for 12 months with no installation cost or pay a one off £150 installation fee after which the service is completely free for 5 years.

Summary

Fibre to the Home internet is not as widely available in the UK as in other countries at the moment. However, coverage is expanding rapidly and most major cities have at least one provider installing somewhere. Hyperoptic in particular is a company to look out for as they are rapidly expanding into many major cities and have superb value packages; see our full article on them for more details.

For competitive online gamers looking to keep latency to an absolute minimum, a FTTH package is a must if available. A full fibre network eliminates the need for copper wiring and thus lowers the time it takes for gaming traffic to be sent to and from your console to wherever it needs to go. Your online experience should improve as a result.

It is also worth noting that some of the packages offer comparable or even cheaper installation costs and monthly rates than the slower standard FTTC packages offered by the major ISPs. In this case it really is a no brainer to go for a FTTH package – you get more bandwidth and lower latency sometimes for a lower price!

We recomend registering your interest with nearby providers in your area and encouraging interested friends and family to do the same, and with the expansion of FTTH providers availability should hopefully be widespread within a few years.

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See also our Gamers Section for links to accessories and some of the latest releases.

Oliver

Online gamer and general home networking enthusiast. I like to create articles to help people solve common home networking problems.

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