For the vast majority of broadband users around the world, the service is provided through the landline telephone network. This is very efficient, not least since the investments and technology used to make the telephone networks stable and reliable over the past 50 years give a carry over to the performance of the broadband network – meaning that the infrastructure is usually widely distributed and far-reaching, and relies on high-quality tested components.
For a variety of reasons, you may not need a landline and therefore the broadband transmitted over the phone network (known as ADSL broadband) might not be an option.
Chief among these reasons is the cost associated with line rental, but also the costs of establishing a new landline in the event that there is none existing at the address. And of course there is also the cost associated with landline rental which must be paid to BT since they own the network, and also since there is usually setup costs and long contracts associated with getting a landline installed. This makes it particularly unnecessary if you don’t need a landline phone either.
Thankfully, there are now many more alternatives to ADSL or phone line based broadband than existed 10 years ago. Since many who might opt for other broadband options are concerned about the setup hassle, mobile broadband is a great option. This is particularly true for those in rented accommodation, who may not even be able to get the provider to install a landline, or don’t want to because they will be moving soon.
4G mobile broadband has extensive signal strength in most places nowadays. It depends on your locale and building, but speeds of up to 50Mbps are commonly achievable. All you need is a dongle or MiFi router, which are cheap and can be free with some bill pay plans. The other advantage is that the broadband can be accessed on the move, so if you work while commuting it gives more benefit. While speeds and price per MB downloaded aren’t as good as ADSL, 4G is a legitimate alternative for most consumers, particularly if usage is mainly for browsing and communication.
And what makes mobile broadband even more viable for some customers is the fact that tethering to your phone can mean that zero setup costs or new equipment purchases are necessary. The downside of mobile broadband is that signal can get patchy and some areas have significantly lower reception. Furthermore, congestion on the network can impact speeds more than with ADSL, so peak times aren’t as good a time for internet use.
There are many maps of coverage rates available online so you can see if mobile broadband is generally good in your area.
In terms of the speeds they offer and how they function, fibre optic broadband and cable are quite similar. In both cases they don’t rely on the phone network but instead send internet via fibre cables and digital cables respectively.
Unlike mobile broadband they give service that actually surpasses that of ADSL – Virgin cable gives some of the fastest speeds on the market (200Mbps in many areas). Cable is sent through the same connection as used for digital TV, so if you already have a digital subscription then a set top box can be bought from the provider and no line rental is necessary in the case of Virgin. It’s worth noting that the price of cable and fibre with line rental is often cheaper than without.
Fibre is not as widely available and requires installation, but once its set up there are no rental fees and of course no landline subscription is necessary. However, many services use some part of the phone network at some point in the connection to your home, so while you don’t need to pay for phone there may be a line rental to pay depending on the provider and your area.
For those that stream or download a lot of HD content, or download games, cable and fibre are the best choice. The reliability and mainly the high speeds make it the market leader in these areas, although there are price premiums to pay for these benefits. Fibre in particular is a great option for businesses since there are many niche providers that offer high standard and tailored packages for commercial enterprises.