Do you have any fibre-optic internet available for my address?
This is a big question. Fibre-optic connections are not widely available in Australia. The existing fibre-based connections belong exclusively to Telstra and Optus, and were built nearly 20 years ago. Optus is available at the address you sent us, but Telstra is not.
Click here to check out our best cable plans, or call Optus on 1300 137 897
For those reading this that are unaware of the difference, fibre optics comprise of thin glass cables that carry far more information, at better speeds and over longer distances, than a copper wire cable. They are the preferred mode of transportation for data, but installing them is much harder than installing copper. One problem is that it doesn't bend as easily as copper, making installation quite time consuming. The real problem is that there's thousands of tons of copper already in the ground, and replacing that with fibre is a big task.
The Telstra and Optus fibre networks are designed to a Hybrid-Fibre-Coaxial network standard (HFC). This is known in the market as Cable. For this network, opitcal fibre is run underground, from network junctions (usually telephone exchanges) to streetside cabinets. From there, a coaxial cable leads into the house.
Coaxial cable is a copper cable as well, but thicker and with better shielding than 'twisted pair' copper, which is what your telephone connection is made of. Ironically, coaxial is less suitable for data than it is for Pay TV. Telephone wire is actually more suitable for data transmission, but has to travel further than coaxial.
For customers with no cable connections at their address (which is most people), the alternative is ADSL, which is broadband over a copper telephone line. This service is typically slower than Cable, but with far more competition and subsequently cheaper prices.
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The current long range plan for Australian communications is to replace these competing patchwork networks with a government controlled, National Broadband Network (NBN). This network will replace copper and HFC cable, with a fibre optic network standard known as Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH). There will be 121 connection points around the country, and from there each point will connect an individual fibre optic cable direct to each premises. This will provide vastly faster connections to every household, regardless of location. The network is still in the building stage and at least 10 years away from completion, and is highly political - the configuration may change at the next election.
It's an accident of history that customers should have to ask for different connection technologies at all - the competition would ideally be based on price, data allowance and speed, and not which wires connect you to the network. But for now, it's worth knowing the difference in capability and quality of these different connection types.
Adam at Compare Broadband
1300 106 571