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ADSL broadband explained

What is ADSL broadband?
The most common form of broadband is Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line or ADSL. It is the standard broadband system that replaced the dial-up connection used before. It works through the BT phone network which the company owns, although since the 1990s a regulatory movement (local loop unbundling) has required BT to allow other providers to access the network for a fee – a competition move that was also implemented in other countries around the world.

ADSL (which is often referred to just as DSL) is the standard for broadband, enabling a high quality and reliable connection many times better than dial-up and sill in most cases a better alternative to mobile broadband. Many homes can get speeds of around 50Mbps with ADSL. It uses the existing copper wire phone infrastructure to provide an internet connection, and a microfilter is placed at each phone connection to split the connection between phone and broadband (which means you don’t have to hang up the phone to use the internet as you once did with dial-up).

The government have targeted full broadband availability for all homes in the past decade and this has largely been achieved, so the vast majority of all residences can avail of ADSL usually with minimal setup hassle (although special equipment like modems are necessary). Some remote or rural areas may not be able to get broadband but this is rare now.

If you can get ADSL there are still other factors that will impact your connection quality such as distance to the phone exchange and quality of the wiring. Both you and the provider must pay line rental to BT if you get broadband from another provider, but in most cases the costs are not so high so as to prevent competition with BT.

ADSL2 is the next generation of DSL connection, and uses the same network but has a different software system employed, and it gives even greater speeds and reliability. Many homes are eligible for this new standard and most providers can offer it.

There are of course good alternatives to ADSL and ADSL2+. Mobile broadband is broadcast over the same mobile network used for mobile phones, and can be a cheap and flexible option. Fibre-optic and cable broadband both offer the highest speeds, up to 300Mbps in some cases. So depending on your needs, there are good alternatives, but for most ADSL offers a great alternative.

It is also worth keeping in mind that other services can be bundled with ADSL, so be on the lookout for offerings that give a good deal on broadband, phone and TV.