Getting to the Future takes Time:
Fibre optic is supposed to be the 'next big thing' in broadband terms, offering super fast speeds according to the marketing blurb. However, it's not all hype because the principle of carrying light signals along glass fibres does ensure much faster transmission speeds than are possible with the normal co-axial copper wire. The other advantage is that there is minimal speed deterioration in fibre optic cable, unlike copper wire where speed can fall away quickly over long distances.
The current problem with fibre optic is its lack of availability. Cable supplier Virgin Media has converted its network but this is not available everywhere. Additionally, fibre optic is only installed to street cabinets, with copper wire still going from there into premises.
The Leaders are playing Catch-up:
The only other fibre optic operator currently is BT, which started a pilot scheme to 10,000 new homes in Kent in 2008 and followed up with trials for existing customers in London and South Glamorgan in 2009. BT aims to deliver fibre optic broadband to 10 million homes by 2012. Added to a claimed 9 million homes for Virgin, this suggests substantial inroads being made into the total number of homes with broadband.
Local loop unbundling means that BT's network will be made available to other ISPs and there have been calls for the Virgin network to be opened up in the same way. However, with copper likely to be used for the final connection into existing premises for the foreseeable future, (unless you're planning on spending the cash yourself to upgrade) the provision of a true, countrywide fibre optic network seems a long way off.