Fibre technology provides the fastest broadband connections available, giving consumers access to transmission speeds of up to 1 Gbps. These connections are often referred to as Fibre to the Home (FTTH).
- FTTH Fibre to the home. In FTTH, fibre is brought the technical room of a single-family house or an apartment in an apartment building.
Even though most backbone networks are fibre-based, some other solution is used on the so-called last mile in the majority of Finnish homes. Optical fibre implementations can be divided into two types: solutions extending to a building distributor (Fibre to the Building, FTTB) and solutions terminating in a street cabinet (Fibre to the Curb [FTTC] or Fibre to the Node [FTTN]).
- FTTB Fibre to the building, fibre to a building distributor. The fibre reaches the technical room of an apartment building or terraced house, while the last mile (internal network) is generic cabling or traditional copper-based telephone cabling. The internal network is owned by and under the responsibility of the housing company.
- FTTC or FTTN (Fibre to the Curb/Node), fibre to a street distributor. The fibre reaches a campus or street cabinet serving multiple buildings and the connection is completed with traditional copper telephone cabling. The local loop between the distributor and the building is owned by and under the responsibility of the telecommunications operator. In FTTC, telephone cabling is used for a longer portion than in FTTB, leaving the fibre further away from the user. For this reason, the FTTC is unable to deliver as fast connection speeds as FTTB.
In addition, the cable TV network is used for fast fixed broadband connections, with the latest DOCSIS technology enabling transmission speeds of up to 1 Gbps. Also in a cable TV network, the backbone is fibre-based, enabling sufficient speed and capacity for multiple simultaneous users. Fibre connections are typically brought to a distributor serving several buildings, while the last mile is typically implemented using a coaxial cable.
New technologies providing faster copper connections
Traditional ADSL technology allows a speed of 20 Mbps up to 1.5 kilometres from the operator’s equipment facility. However, if the distance is much greater, e.g. 5 kilometres, the speed rarely exceeds 2 Mbps. This results from the fact that the signal attenuates much more when transmitted over copper cable than over fibre and it is also more vulnerable to external interference.
New copper technologies have constantly been developed alongside with fibre technologies. New connection technologies enable the use of copper local loops in the provision of high-speed broadband, while fibre is laid down closer to homes, reducing the copper-based portions. For example the maximum speed of a VDSL2/FTTC connection can be more than 100 Mbps if the copper-based leg is short enough, no more than a few hundred metres. The more advanced Vplus technology can deliver speeds of more than 300 Mbps.
In short FTTC connections and FTTB connections where traditional copper lines are only used in the internal network, for example G.fast or XG.fast technology can be utilised. They allow a transmission speed of several hundred Mpbs, and can even exceed 1 Gbps.
The new technologies are currently in the pilot phase in Finland, and not yet commonly available. However, current network equipment enable speeds of up to 1 Gbps in housing companies where the internal networks is implemented using general Ethernet cabling.
In the absence of a local loop network or if the conditions for building a new network are challenging, or the expenses are too high, a wireless local loop can be provided. In these cases, fibre is brought to the operator’s local exchange, while a wireless communications link is used for the last mile to the customer’s home or office.
Wireless local loop solutions make use of available frequencies (e.g. WLAN/Wi-Fi) or mobile 3G or 4G frequencies. The transmission speeds are modest compared to a fixed network but wireless technology enables standard use in areas where no fixed network offering would otherwise be available.
Large fixed directional antennas can be used to guarantee fast and reliable wireless broadband connections in the home. This solution is not available for most mobile terminal devices used on the go.
Fixed WLAN/Wi-Fi-based broadband access is rare in Finland. The coverage of Finland’s copper-based landline telephone network is very high, reaching almost every home, but it does not enable fast connections across the country. As the dismantling of old networks continues, operators are obligated to offer 3G or 4G mobile broadband connections with matching quality as replacement.
WLAN/Wi-Fi-based connections are more common in many Central European countries because sparsely populated areas and remote villages have not previously been covered by other networks. In Finland, on the other hand, location-independent mobile broadband has been more popular than elsewhere in Europe (data plans for smart phones, tablets etc.).
One of the new wireless solutions enabling high-speed connections is Hybrid DSL-LTE, which combines the bandwidths of fixed copper and wireless 4G networks. The fixed network provides the standard transmission speed, and when a bandwidth boost is needed, it is combined with the LTE network.
Sources: Nokia Solutions and Networks Oy, Ericsson AB