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Types of broadband explained

Different types of broadband

In the early days of the internet there was only one way to get online, dial-up. It wasn’t very fast and there were no opportunities for alternatives. Mobile broadband came on the scene but wasn’t very capable of more than simple tasks. Nowadays, there are much better offerings and a wider range of choices. Here are the main options.

ADSL

This is the standard broadband most people have, sent over the BT phone network. Other providers pay BT to use the network, so you don’t have to use BT’s service only. It is the best option for most and the standard way to get broadband, with good speeds and reliability as well as good value prices. Speeds of 52Mbps are possible, depending on your distance from the exchange and other factors like location, infrastructure quality, how busy the line is, and peak vs off-peak use.

If you use multiple devices you will need a router as well as a modem, but unlike dial-up you can use the telephone and the internet at the same time.

Mobile broadband

Most people will be able to avail of the latest technology in mobile broadband, 4G, but depending on the location 3G may be used. 4G in particular can offer speeds comparable to ADSL, with a maximum of 60Mbps (although averaging much lower, around 20Mbps). It is also easier to set up and portable since the connection is sent over the mobile phone network. You can use a dongle, mobile device or MiFi modem to access the signal, and it is offered by all major mobile networks including Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone.

Fibre optic broadband

The next generation of broadband speeds have been achieved with fibre-optic technology, which use glass wiring to transmit data. It can achieve much faster speeds than traditional wiring, and fibre offerings in the UK can often reach 100Mbps. It is a popular option for business, as it ensures a more reliable and faster means of transferring data. Many niche providers have made an impact on the market, especially catering to businesses. However, the main providers (BT, EE, Zen, TalkTalk, Sky, and Virgin) all have good offerings for fibre-optic.

Like the other options here, fibre availability depends on your location so it’s worth enquiring with a provider or checking online if you are interested in any option.

Cable broadband

In terms of performance and price as well as setup, cable is very similar to fibre-optic, and many group the 2 together. Cable broadband is transmitted the same way as with cable television, and it was during the early days of broadband that thy first thought of using the same technology for internet as was used with TV for high speed broadband.

In fact, it works so well that the fastest commercially available broadband in the UK is Virgin Cable, with speeds of up to 300Mbps in some cases. It requires special setup and equipment, and is not available everywhere, but is a great option if you’re looking for superfast broadband.