As high-speed fiber crisscrosses North America there are still many last-mile challenges bringing it into buildings. Because of this, many new terms are being cited for iterations of the service.

With fiber able to deliver gigabit speeds over very long lengths and copper limited to higher bandwidths over only short lengths, the ultimate goal is to bring fiber into, or at least very close to the home or business. The general term for bringing broadband by fiber anywhere near to premises is FTTx – fiber to the… whatever. But, beyond that, there are often confusing and conflicting terms being used.

Here’s a primer on the current industry lingo used in cabling, telco, ISP and broadband conversations.

Fiber to the node or neighborhood (FTTN) refers to a termination somewhere distant or possibly miles from the final destination. The final mile in this case is usually pre-existing twisted pair copper or coaxial with connections made in a street cabinet. Hundreds of customers may be served, typically with DSL (digital subscriber line), and so speed and bandwidth will drop significantly from that of fiber optic.

Similarly, FTTC specifically refers to fiber terminating in a cabinet (or ‘to the curb’) that is closer to the premises. This is perhaps less than 300 meters so that high-speed copper technologies that run over shorter loop lengths like the new G.Fast, can be used.

G.Fast upgrades DSL to higher frequencies and can handle gigabit speeds over distances up to 250 meters.

Getting progressively closer to the premises, the term FTTdp means fiber to the distribution point. The outside plant (OSP) may be next to the building itself and is the final connection point between the fiber and the building’s network cabling.

Finally, we get to the near Utopian term we hear so much about: FTTP. This is where the fiber actually reaches the premises itself. There are two subcategories FTTH – fiber to the home and FTTB – fiber to the building.

With FTTB, the fiber connects to a panel either attached to, or inside a building, probably a multi-dwelling unit (MDU) or business building. From there it’s distributed by the building’s infrastructure, whether through Ethernet, WiFi or powerline networking. In a new build or greenfields, there’s also the option of running fiber throughout the building.

FTTH brings the fiber right to the home and can be terminated in a simple cross-connect box or panel. From there, networking can consist of Ethernet or passive optical network (PON). Devices can be connected to the optical network using an optical network terminal (ONT).

The end result is FTTD, which is fiber to the desktop. This is the ultimate in speed with optical fiber running the full length of the network right up to the desktop.