Fiber to the Home (FTTH) vs FTTP, FTTN, FTTC, and FTTB (2022)

Fiber to the home (FTTH) is the most widely known and used variation of fiber optic access infrastructure within the broader Fiber to the x (FTTx) classification. Still, a number of other terminologies and architectures exist including fiber to the premises (FTTP), fiber to the node (FTTN), fiber to the curb (FTTC), and fiber to the building (FTTB), which are important to compare and contrast with fiber to the home (FTTH).

Fiber to the home (FTTH) is the use of fiber optic cable to directly connect to customer homes or premises. FTTH provides an end-to-end fiber optic connection, meaning the transmission of voice, video, and data traffic does not utilize copper wireline infrastructure.

Dgtl Infra provides an in-depth overview of the fiber to the home (FTTH) access network architecture. Additionally, we detail the differences between FTTH and broadband, FTTx, FTTP, FTTN, FTTC, FTTB, and the family of DSL broadband technologies. Finally, Dgtl Infra reviews why fiber to the home (FTTH) is better than cable, which uses a hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) network, as well as copper-based technologies like DSL.

What is the Meaning of Fiber to the Home (FTTH)?

Fiber to the home (FTTH) refers to the use of fiber optic cable to reach the boundary of a home or premises, such as a box installed on the outside wall of a house or business. This fiber optic cable is comprised of bundled, hair-thin glass strands along which light pulses are used to transmit large amounts of information (including voice, video, and data), between locations at high download and upload speeds.

Predominantly, FTTH is deployed through an end-to-end passive optical network (PON), meaning the full distance from the telecommunications provider’s central office (CO) to the customer’s home. At a distribution hub, a single fiber’s bandwidth is shared through optical splitters, enabling it to serve 32, 64, 128, or 256+ customers.

Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Diagram
Fiber to the Home (FTTH) vs FTTP, FTTN, FTTC, and FTTB (1)

The FTTH standard, using passive optical network (PON) transmission technology, has two key network components, known as the optical line terminal (OLT) and optical network terminal (ONT).

Fiber to the Home (FTTH) with FTTC, FTTN, FTTB, VDSL
Fiber to the Home (FTTH) vs FTTP, FTTN, FTTC, and FTTB (2)
  • Optical Line Terminal (OLT): typically located in communications exchanges and other network central offices (COs) within multiple service access nodes (MSANs). This device serves as the telecommunications provider endpoint of a passive optical network (PON). The OLT provides multi-gigabit shared or dedicated bandwidth across thousands of customers, enabling the delivery of services including broadband Internet and IPTV
  • Optical Network Terminal (ONT): on the other end of the FTTH network, all services are generally delivered by a telecommunications provider to a home through an optical network terminal (ONT), which are transceivers located at the customer premises. ONTs terminate the fiber optic line from the OLT and convert the light/optical signals to electrical signals, enabling the in-home network to deliver voice, video, and data services. As shown above, an optical network terminal (ONT) can also be referred to as an optical network unit (ONU)

Fiber to the home (FTTH) has become the industry standard for access network architectures of wireline operators, since it provides a superior customer experience for a voice, video, and data services. The bandwidth capacity of fiber optic cable is much greater than that of copper wire and light can travel relatively long distances through glass, without the need for amplification.

To this end, fiber broadband services are available to ~50 million homes in the United States, equivalent to 35% of the total housing units in the country, per the United States Census Bureau.

What is PON in FTTH?

Passive optical network (PON) is a fiber-based transmission technology used for delivering broadband network access. PON uses unpowered fiber optic splitters to enable a single optical fiber to serve multiple endpoints (i.e., premises) without having to provide individual fibers between the distribution hub and customer.

While a gigabit passive optical network (GPON) delivers greater data download speeds of nearly 2.5 gigabits per second (Gbps) and upload speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps. Finally, a 10-gigabit symmetrical passive optical network (XGS-PON) delivers the highest data download and upload speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

READ MORE: XGS-PON – Fiber-based Technology Delivering 10 Gbps

Collectively, GPON and XGS-PON fiber access technologies can be broadly referred to as xPON, as they are both types of passive optical networks. Indeed, other standards include NG-PON2 and 25G PON, which is a fiber broadband technology that is currently being trialed in North America and Europe.

What is the Difference Between Broadband and FTTH?

Broadband is a communications service that allows for the high-speed transmission of voice, video, and data simultaneously at rates of 1.544 megabits per second (Mbps) and above. In terms of cable technology, broadband is delivered over fiber optic, coaxial, and hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) lines, which provide more capacity than a voice-grade (dial-up) phone line. Therefore, FTTH (fiber to the home) architecture is a type of broadband access network.

READ MORE: Fiber Broadband Internet Is The Future For Your Home

Is FTTH Better Than Broadband?

FTTH is better than broadband based on the official speed definition from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Specifically, the FCC defines broadband, from a speed perspective, to provide a minimum of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. Whereas FTTH uses fiber-based transmission technology that delivers multi-gigabit per second download speeds and upload speeds of more than 1 Gbps.

READ MORE: Broadband Investment and Deployment is Accelerating

Is FTTH Faster Than Cable?

FTTH is faster than cable, referring to hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC), a distribution system in which fiber optic cable and coaxial cable are used in different portions of a network to carry video, voice, and data traffic, from a distribution facility to a customer premises.

Presently, cable communications leverage DOCSIS 3.1 technology which enables broadband services with up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) download speeds, but only 35 to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) upload speeds. In contrast, FTTH services currently offer symmetrical download and upload speeds of 2+ Gbps.

READ MORE: DOCSIS 4.0 – Next-Generation Cable Networks

Next Generation Networks (NGN)

As a general rule, next generation networks (NGN) provide high-speed broadband services at over 30 megabits per second (Mbps), making both fiber and cable next generation networks.

What is the Difference Between FTTH and FTTx?

Fiber to the x (FTTx) is a collective term for any broadband network architecture using optical fiber cables to replace all or part of existing copper cables. FTTH is a more specific broadband network architecture that discretely refers to fiber to the home. To this end, Fiber to the x (FTTx) comprises many additional variations of fiber optic access infrastructure, beyond FTTH, including:

  • FTTP: fiber to the premises
  • FTTN: fiber to the node or neighborhood
  • FTTC: fiber to the curb or cabinet
  • FTTB: fiber to the building or business
  • FTTdp: fiber to the distribution point
FTTH, FTTC, FTTB – Fiber Optic Access Infrastructure
Fiber to the Home (FTTH) vs FTTP, FTTN, FTTC, and FTTB (3)

Typically, these optical fiber-based broadband network architectures differ from one another based on their fiber termination point. In other words, these network architectures are distinguished by the point of the distribution network where the fiber connection is made, with respect to the customer’s location.

Many of these variations utilize hybrid access architectures, meaning they combine copper and fiber. For example, these hybrid systems include FTTC (fiber to the curb), FTTN (fiber to the node), and FTTB (fiber to the building).

Overall, as telecommunications providers extend fiber closer to the customer, the length of the copper line shortens.

What is the Difference Between FTTH and FTTP?

FTTH (fiber to the home) is synonymous with FTTP (fiber to the premises), they both represent fiber optic cable that reaches the boundary of a home or premises, such as a box installed on the outside wall of a house or business. Often, FTTH can denote connectivity services for residential customers, while FTTP can signify connectivity services for business customers.

READ MORE: Fiber Optic Cable Installation Process – Connecting Homes

Geographically, FTTH or fiber to the home is a more commonly used term in the United States. While FTTP or fiber to the premises (spelled “fibre”) is the preferred terminology in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

What is the Difference Between FTTH and FTTN?

Fiber to the node (FTTN) deploys fiber optic cable that runs from a telecommunications provider’s central office (CO) and terminates at a “node” in the field, such as a street cabinet. From this node, a digital subscriber line (DSL) then provides services to customers over copper wireline infrastructure. In contrast, the fiber termination point for FTTH (fiber to the home) is located physically at a customer’s home.

Often, the FTTN street cabinet is located several blocks away from a customer’s premises. Through this architecture, a node can connect up to several hundred customer homes, serving a particular geographic area of typically less than a 1-mile radius, such as a neighborhood – hence the comparable term of fiber to the neighborhood.

Is FTTH Better Than FTTN?

FTTH is better than FTTN because it provides an end-to-end fiber optic connection, meaning the transmission of voice, video, and data traffic is not limited by FTTN’s use of copper wireline infrastructure. Fiber offers higher throughput, symmetrical bandwidth, and superior signal strength than copper.

What is the Difference Between FTTH and FTTC?

Fiber to the curb (FTTC) deploys fiber optic cable that runs from a telecommunications provider’s central office (CO) and terminates in a small enclosure or on a pole, close to the customer’s premises, typically within ~1,000 feet. A synonymous term, fiber to the cabinet (FTTC), further specifies that this small enclosure is a distribution cabinet, located on the edge of a street or “curb”.

Similar to FTTN, from the FTTC small enclosure, pole, or distribution cabinet, a digital subscriber line (DSL) then provides services to customers over copper wireline infrastructure. In comparison, the fiber termination point for FTTH (fiber to the home) is located physically at a customer’s home.

What is the Difference Between FTTH and FTTB?

Fiber to the building (FTTB) deploys fiber with the termination point being a distribution box located at the base, just outside of a large building. From this point, all voice, video, and data traffic is “switched” on to a vertical copper connection. In contrast, the fiber termination point for FTTH (fiber to the home) is located inside a customer’s premises, relying on end-to-end fiber optic connectivity.

FTTB encompasses FTTO (fiber to the office) and FTTA (fiber to the apartment), thus it can also be referred to as fiber to the business.

G.fast

G.fast is a fixed broadband technology (DSL standard) that is able to deliver speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) over very short distances (i.e., up to 165 feet). Since G.fast is optimized for very short distances, it requires network devices to be positioned in close proximity to customers, such as in distribution boxes at the base of buildings, hence its use for fiber to the building (FTTB).

What is the Difference Between FTTH and DSL, ADSL, VDSL?

DSL (digital subscriber line) is a family of broadband technologies that transmit voice, video, and data traffic over an existing twisted-pair copper telephone line. The most common types of DSL technology offerings are ADSL and VDSL (including VDSL2), which can collectively be referred to as xDSL. Each version of DSL differs based on the maximum download and upload speeds that it can offer.

In contrast, FTTH provides an end-to-end fiber optic connection, meaning the full distance from the telecommunications provider’s central office (CO) to the customer’s premises.

Which is Better FTTH or DSL, ADSL, VDSL?

FTTH is better than DSL, ADSL, and VDSL given that fiber offers higher throughput, symmetrical bandwidth, and superior signal strength than copper. For example, FTTH can deliver multi-gigabit per second download speeds and upload speeds of more than 1 Gbps. Whereas ADSL and VDSL technologies (excluding bonding and vectoring) typically offer download speeds of only 3 Mbps to 100 Mbps and upload speeds of only 512 Kbps to 10 Mbps.

Is Fiber to the Home Better?

Fiber optic broadband delivered to the home is significantly better than copper-based technologies and holds a number of advantages over cable, which uses hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) technology. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), when compared to cable, fiber provides 34% faster download speeds, 17.6x faster upload speeds, and 42% lower latency levels.

What are the Benefits of FTTH?

The benefits of fiber to the home (FTTH) include higher throughput, symmetrical bandwidth, and superior signal strength. Additionally, FTTH is superior to copper and HFC in terms of network performance, quality, and reliability.

Throughput and Latency

FTTH services currently offer download speeds of 3+ Gbps, as compared to cable / HFC with download speeds of up to 1 Gbps, and copper-based DSL technologies which typically have maximum download speeds of 100 Mbps. Additionally, FTTH delivers lower latency than cable and copper-based DSL technologies.

Together, higher throughput and lower latency are essential for gaming (particularly cloud-based), using multiple streaming devices simultaneously, and consuming higher resolution content (e.g., 4K and 8K).

Symmetrical Bandwidth

FTTH technology delivers symmetrical download and upload speeds – meaning they are equally as fast. In comparison, cable and DSL copper-based services are asymmetrical, offering fast download speeds but meaningfully slower upload speeds. For example, cable may deliver broadband services with up to 1 Gbps download speeds, but only 35 to 50 Mbps upload speeds.

Having symmetrical download and upload speeds is important for enabling high-quality, real-time communications, such as through videoconferencing, telehealth, distance learning, and collaboration tools. Additionally, symmetrical bandwidth facilitates the upload and sharing of large files to the cloud.

Signal Strength

FTTH provides an end-to-end fiber optic connection, which results in the delivery of bandwidth with no loss of signal strength in the fiber optic cable, regardless of the length of the cable. Conversely, copper wire cables experience a loss of signal strength which limits the length of each copper wire cable segment to a range of 3,000 and 6,000 feet between amplification points.

As such, hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) and DSL copper-based networks suffer from signal degradation, particularly when transmitting signals beyond 10,000 feet (1.9 miles). Moreover, these networks experience significant variability due to a number of factors, such as electrical interference, that are compounded by distance.

READ MORE: Fiber Optic Network Construction – Process and Build Costs

Fiber to the Home (FTTH) vs FTTP, FTTN, FTTC, and FTTB (4)

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