The future of smart homes: fibre optic cabling

Home automation and smart devices have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering homeowners innovative new ways to make their homes more energy-efficient, secure, interconnected, and convenient for them. The smart home market in the UK is expected to reach unprecedented heights in the coming years. Experts predict it will reach $11 billion by the end of this year, and $17.1 billion by 2028, showing an annual growth rate of 11.66% (CAGR).

A core fundamental behind successful, seamless smart home automation integration is reliable, fast internet connectivity. As homeowners continue to optimise their households with increasing numbers of interconnected devices, the demand placed on home network bandwidth will also rise. This is where fibre optic cabling comes in, as the ideal solution for smart home infrastructure now and as homes become progressively more tech-led.

Fibre optic cabling.

What is fibre optic cabling?

Fibre optic cables are advanced types of network cabling, offering significantly improved performance in terms of speed, data carrying and bandwidth. Fibre cabling involves the use of light pulses to transfer data which passes along one or more transparent pipes (usually made of glass or plastic).

As opposed to electrical signals travelling through copper wires, fibre optic cables contain one or more optical fibres – often coated with plastic layers and contained in protective casings – which are used to carry light. It’s not uncommon to find optic cables in numerous applications beyond the internet and broadband, including phone lines, telecommunications, and even interior design and lighting. 

Controlling a home’s appliances via a smart app.

Why fibre is essential for future smart homes

Fibre optic communication offers a distinct advantage over standard copper cabling in that it’s immune to electromagnetic interference, ensuring seamless transmission of data. It’s secure as a communication method and less prone to signal loss, with ‌cabling itself exceptionally difficult to tap into. Fibre-backed networks offer enhanced security and protection against external cyber threats due to their unique physical properties, as a result.

Fibre optic cables have a significantly higher bandwidth capacity compared to copper cables, allowing for much faster and more reliable data transmission. Given the hardware’s stability and robustness at working autonomously without experiencing signal loss, it eliminates the need for additional signal repeaters or boosters. Fibre optic networks are also far less susceptible to environmental factors.

So, if you are considering home networks with a much more inherently secure, stable and reliable setup, look no further than fibre.

The fibre rollout across the UK

Fibre availability is improving across the UK, primarily driven by providers installing FTTH (Fibre-To-The-Home) networks.

  • Full fibre (FTTP) ISP networks have grown to reach 60.54% of properties in the UK (as of 2023).
  • Almost 80% of these properties are within gigabit speeds (download speeds of 1,000 Megabits per second (Mbps)).
  • 98% of properties in England and Northern Ireland (with 95% in Scotland and 96% in Wales) now have access to superfast broadband (up to 300 Mbps)
  • According to the Next-Generation Broadband Roadmap (by the WBBA), connection speeds of up to 50 Gbps will be the ‘norm’ for residential broadband by 2030.
  • Enterprise speeds will break into the realm of 3.2 Terabits per second (Tbps).

What can fibre enable in smart homes?

With fibre optic broadband becoming more popular with each passing year, there is no better time to consider making the switch. If you’re planning some minor home upgrades or a full renovation and overhaul into smart home territory, it’s worth looking at the underlying technology to see how much your daily life could improve.

What could you be giving your smart home if you upgraded to fibre connectivity?

Let’s take a look:

Network stability

Traditional WiFi networks, particularly in some areas, can be prone to lag and interruption. As more devices connect to the network, limited bandwidth has to be divided amongst users. Upgrading to fibre will provide a much more stable, reliable infrastructure with plenty of bandwidth to spare. 

Optimal coverage

By using certain types of routers, you can configure specific WiFi speeds throughout your home to optimise coverage. For example, you can stipulate that certain devices use a 5GHz signal while others use a 2.4GHz signal, ensuring that all devices aren’t competing for the same bandwidth.

Enhanced quality viewing

Fibre optic home broadband is ideal for busy households or those who love streaming television shows and films or playing video games online. Whether on a games console, desktop computer, smartphone or tablet, web-backed streaming platforms can work unencumbered and with razor-sharp quality.

As more content becomes more enhanced in quality in Ultra HD, 4K and even 8K resolution (though this is reportedly a while away), streaming through various HD-ready platforms becomes a necessity to enjoy an immersive, cinematic experience. Streaming via standard ADSL connections isn’t always reliable, whereas fibre optic broadband offers complete peace of mind.

Smarter home management

In a smart home setting, each device has hardware that allows it to connect to the home broadband and synchronise with other connected devices on the same network. Most smart homeowners can control and manage all devices via a single smartphone app – usually that belonging to a smart home hub.

Additionally, smart home hubs use machine learning and artificial intelligence to recognise and gather information about behaviours and patterns. While each individual device or appliance may not take up huge amounts of bandwidth, the additional pressure placed on a network grows as more devices are added. As a result, FTTH connections have become higher priorities for buyers in recent years.

The challenges with adopting fibre

While fibre optic cabling promises immense benefits for enabling smarter, more automated homes – there are some key barriers to overcome first:

  • Installing cables can be expensive, intrusive, and time-consuming without proper infrastructure in place.
  • It’s not a simple switchover from traditional copper wiring, a fibre upgrade often requires reworking entire home networks.
  • Availability of fibre is still limited globally, with many rural regions lacking complete rollouts.
  • Bringing fibre optic cables into multi-dwelling units or blocks of flats can prove cumbersome, and cable pathways often have to be paved outside walls (if planning permission allows it).
  • Correct technical expertise is needed to handle such an overhaul and implement it properly.
A smart home digital interface.

5 steps for transitioning to fibre optic cabling:

Homeowners eager to upgrade their properties with fibre have several steps they need to complete for a successful transition.

  1. Check the fibre connectivity status for your postcode on provider websites. Register interest if available.
  2. Contact internet providers like BT, Virgin, or Hyperoptic about installing fibre into your home and your options.
  3. Choose the right fibre package based on speeds and data needs as they vary.
  4. Schedule fibre installation and prepare existing wiring access if required. Upfront costs can vary depending on the work needed.
  5. Reset up your home network once the fibre cabling is connected, upgrading routers, switches, and WiFi access points for full benefits.

As the smart home market continues to grow, it’s fair to suggest that more homeowners will demand superfast connectivity in their homes. The initial investment and upfront effort required to adopt fibre will pay long-term dividends as homes evolve to leverage greater bandwidth and opportunities to integrate more beneficial tech in the home.

It’s prudent to note that the number of IoT (Internet of Things) devices worldwide will rise significantly, and as these devices multiply, it’s vital to address the connectivity needs of modern homeowners sooner rather than later. 

The ecological, practical, and lifestyle benefits of smart homes are well-known by now and will continue to be felt – and sought after – by growing numbers of homeowners in the years to come. The question remains whether providers are prepared to meet the increasing demand for fibre and allow more homeowners to witness the advantages of this infrastructure.

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