The network build and technologies

View some frequently asked questions relating to the network build and technologies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's​)

Stage 1 and 2 contracts with Openreach

Openreach has primarily deployed Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology to deliver contracted superfast coverage targets for these contracts.  However, around 3,000 premises have also benefitted from Fibre to the Premise (FTTP), otherwise known as full fibre.

FTTC brings fibre out from the telephone exchange and closer to the premise via the installation of a new fibre cabinet supporting download speeds of up to 80Mbps for those located closest to it. Fibre is 'pulled' or 'blown' through underground ducts. The fibre cabinet (known as a DSLAM) is then connected to the existing copper cabinet. The last leg of the service is delivered over the existing copper network. In general, the closer a premise is located to its serving cabinet, the higher speed uplift it will get. Speeds experienced will drop off more quickly the further away a premise is located. Because there are other dependencies on speed, there is no absolute 'distance to speed' rule.

However, as a general guide, superfast broadband should be available within distances of about 1.2km from the cabinet to the premise served; for greater distances of c.1.8km or more, there may be little or no speed uplift benefit at all from a particular upgrade. The quality of the copper line may also be a factor affecting speed performance. Many premises served by FTTC will be able to access superfast broadband services. For those that don't benefit from a cabinet upgrade, it is expected that solutions will continue to be sought through the Superfast Northamptonshire project.

Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) is much more costly to deliver because, for the Openreach network, it involves laying new fibre all the way from the telephone exchange to a premise, which means more civil engineering works. FTTP can support much higher speeds and is capable of gigabit performance. Other telecoms providers as well as Openreach use and specialise in these and other types of technology. More basic services can be provided by wireless and satellite broadband.

For more information on how the Openreach network is built please visit the Building the Network page.

Gigaclear Stage 3 Contract

Gigaclear provide a pure Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) network solution as standard. This is a gigabit capable network, supporting  services from 50Mbps up to 1Gbps. It involves laying new backhaul fibre to connect into the wider network and serve access cabinets (green roadside cabinets) deployed for each Community Build. Fibre is then laid to premises within the cabinet area by digging new ducts along  grass verges, footways and carriageways and then finally to each individual premise. Telephone exchange areas are not relevant to Gigaclear's roll out. Gigaclear sometimes utilise Openreach ducts via Passive Infrastructure Access (PIA) agreements.
Customers can purchase a range of services from 50Mbps to 1Gbps dependant on individual requirements, from either Gigaclear or partner Internet Service Providers. For more information on the Gigaclear network please visit Gigaclear's web site.

Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) 

There are 5 key stages involved in the deployment of FTTC. It can take up to 9 months on average to progress through all of these key stages of the roll out, or longer if issues which are unknown at the outset are encountered at the survey or build stages. These are described in the table below and in an alternative format in the image further down:

​Desk top modelling and network design​Drawing on the supplier's information about its existing network and how best this can be extended to maximise coverage for least cost.
​Planning and Survey​Planning notifications and detailed on site surveys to determine the new cabinet location, taking account of duct condition and capacity, power availability and other on-site conditions.
​Network Build​Laying or 'blowing' new fibre network spine, digging new ducting where necessary, connecting it up and standing the new cabinet.
​Technical and Electrical Equipment Installations and Testing​Installing the electronic equipment in the exchange and in the new fibre cabinet and undertaking light and other tests to ensure there are no faults in the network.
​Ready for Service​Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are notified that the cabinet is now live. ISPs advertise to their customers. You don't get an upgrade automatically, you have to contact your provider to request and buy an upgrade.

 Image showing five key stages for FTTC network build 

Fibre to the Premise (FTTP)

Deploying Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) follows a similiar process process but for Openreach deployments does not involve the siting of new green roadside cabinets. This is because manifolds or splitters are used instead; nor does it require power on site as power would be sourced at the exchange. It does involve more civil engineering works.
The key stages involved in an Openreach FTTP build are in the table below and the image further down, in an alternative format:



​Desktop Modelling, Network Design and Survey

​Drawing on the supplier's information about it's existing network and how best this can be extended to maximise coverage for least cost.


​Detailed work to ensure the rollout is carried out in the most efficient manner with the least disruption to local residents.

​Network Build

​Laying the fibre which forms the network spine, digging new ducting and laying fibre cables to bring a fibre broadband service to the kerbside outside your home. On occasion your connection may be via an overhead cable but the vast majority of work will be underground.

​Technical and Electrical Installations and Testing

​Installing the electronic equipment in the exchange and undertaking light and other tests to ensure there are no other faults on the fibre network.

​Ready for Service

​Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are notified that fibre broadband is available. ISPs make arrangements to link into the new network and advertise to their customers.

​Order a Fibre Service

​Once superfast fibre broadband is available, you don't get an upgrade automatically. You have to get your Internet Service Provider to request and buy an upgrade to a faster service. The upgrade will involve taking the fibre from the kerbside to your property and installing some electronic equipment into your home.



Image showing the six stages of FTTP Build

Premises located in the same postcode area are not always connected by the same broadband network infrastructure or network suppliers e.g. there could be more than one cabinet structure in a postcode or fibre networks operated by different providers. If cabinets or parts of the network are upgraded at different times then not all premises in the same postcode area will benefit at the same time. It is also possible that in the same postcode area, some premises may be served by different broadband technologies or require different technology solutions.

Postcodes themselves can also vary considerably in size, with those in the rural areas often geographically much larger than those in the urban areas. If part of the network is still reliant on copper e.g. through a Fibre to the Cabinet solution (see the Network Build and Technologies FAQ) then the premises closest to their serving cabinet will benefit from the highest speeds.

There are other factors that can influence what speeds may be available including the quality and age of your own internal wiring connections and computer equipment/software.

The 'standing' of a new fibre cabinet (green roadside cabinet) can often be very early in the whole cycle of works which needs to happen to plan and build a new fibre network and get it commissioned ready for service. The whole build cycle can take many months.

Once an Openreach fibre cabinet has been 'stood' for an FTTC solution, then a process of pulling the network from the exchange to the cabinet has to begin. This can entail laying several kilometres of cabling and managing works on the highway and the possibility of hitting delays. A power supply for the new cabinet must also be found and connected, electronic equipment needs to be installed and tests on the network undertaken to ensure its all working correctly, including a light test.All of this takes time.

Available resources and activities also have to be coordinated as part of a wider programme of network build involving many cabinets at any point in time. Once all of the components are completed then it takes around 3-4 weeks for a cabinet to go live. This is to complete the commissioning of the cabinet but also to inform Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that the new upgraded cabinet is ready for service and for them to get mobilised to offer upgraded services to people who live in the premises served by the new cabinet.

A faster service is not delivered automatically. As a customer you have to request an upgrade from your ISP. So, it's not unusual for you to see a new street cabinet stood for some time before it goes live. A cabinet which has gone live and is now supporting services will normally have a sticker advertising that fibre broadband is here to help raise awareness in the community.

Similarly, in the case of a Gigaclear community build, the green access cabinet can be sited very early in the community build and ahead of the several months required to complete the civils necessary to provide fibre connections to every home and commission the cabinet ready for service.

Fibre is deployed for many different reasons, such as private network lines, as well as broadband access. These types of connections purchased by individuals or businesses are not available to be shared with others for broadband access. In other cases it may be a core fibre spine. Similar to a motorway scenario where you can only get on and off a motorway at certain junctions, it is equally not possible to link into the fibre network just anywhere. Fibre networks may also be owned and run by different telecoms providers.

When you place your order to upgrade to fibre broadband, your Internet Service Provider should supply you with all of the equipment you need to get online.  If necessary, the supplier will make arrangements with you for an engineer to come to your home to install some of this equipment and get you connected.

Engineering works are likely to be required on the roads where an FTTP solution is being delivered.  In areas where Openreach is delivering FTTP for the Superfast Northamptonshire project they will primarily use existing ducts or overhead poles to lay new fibre cables.  

Gigaclear's FTTP solution does require the digging of new ducting and trenches to run the fibre and bury it underground. This is because they are building completely new fibre networks which offer the fastest speeds available. Verges, footways or carriageways will be disrupted during the roll out but all works will be re-instated once completed and you are enjoying the benefits of ultrafast broadband. Gigaclear will communicate with residents in advance of any works being carried out.  Where works involve digging soft verges like grass for example, a full re-instatement may not be possible in winter months. This means in some cases Gigaclear may return to an area to re-seed grass in the spring when it will have more success to grow - soft verge works undertaken from spring to autumn will be reseeded at the time. 

Any supplier providing FTTP solutions are required to restore surfaces within the standards required by the Highways Authority. Any fibre laid inside properties will be under the arrangement with the property owner to minimise disruption where possible.

Next Generation Access (NGA) means networks which are wholly or in part comprised of optical fibre networks and which are capable of higher performance (enhanced characteristics) than traditional existing copper networks. This means they can support higher throughput (download and upload speeds). NGA should be capable of enabling data transfer at speeds of at least 30Mbps download over the internet. Technologies include wired networks such as Fibre to the Cabinet or Fibre to the Premise or fixed wireless access where this meets NGA technology standards.

Superfast broadband

The OFCOM definition of superfast broadband is access line speeds (download) of at least 30 Mega bits per second (Mbps). This is consistent with Next Generation Access technology requirements which involve optical fibre networks. Superfast Northamptonshire use this definition when reporting countywide coverage availability.

Superfast output coverage targets for Superfast Northamptonshire’s Stage 1 and 2 contracts with Openreach were based on a threshold of >24Mbps.  At the time, this was the definition of superfast used by OFCOM and adopted by BDUK.

Ultrafast broadband

Ultrafast networks are wholly optical fibre or coaxial cable networks which are capable of higher performance (enhanced characteristics) than traditional existing copper networks or partial fibre networks (FTTC).  This means they can support higher throughput (download and upload speeds). OFCOM defines ultrafast broadband as broadband with download speeds of greater than 300Mbps.

Gigabit broadband

Gigabit broadband refers to a connection that can deliver download speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps).1 Gbps is equal to 1000 Mbps.