How does broadband work?

After years of trying to work it out, we finally have the answer to this question.

Broadband is essentially an everyday tool used for data transfer at fast speeds. Whether you’re fascinated by the technical side, or simply wondering ‘how does broadband work?’, here is our guide to help you.

The difference between ADSL and fibre-optic

ADSL and fibre-optic broadband are currently the most popular home broadband connections, transferring data between two sources.

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) was the next step up from the super slow dial-up connection. It carries data from copper telephone lines which is split in two, with one carrying data and the other to connect telephone calls. As the digital age transformed, this meant phone calls could be made without losing a broadband connection. With the copper lines divided, broadband became faster than the now ancient dial-up.

Now that the digital age has further progressed, fibre-optic broadband (often referred to as superfast) has paved the way for a new generation of online browsing. The name itself comes from its structure, with cables formed by thousands of tiny fibres made from silica glass, about as thin as human hair. Each fibre sends out signals back and forth to a cabinet, using pulses of light, making a faster connection than ADSL.

Mobile broadband

These days, you can go online at your convenience, even when you’re on the go. Mobile broadband is a wireless connection that can be accessed when there is a mobile internet connection at your location.

To make use of this mobile technology, you will need a dongle or portable Wi-Fi hotspot. Dongles are widely available from many broadband providers, and Three also offers Mi-Fi® which can connect multiple devices from one compact hub. However, unlike many ADSL and fibre-optic packages, there is a data limit to mobile broadband, so it’s best to stick to web browsing rather than downloading large files when you’re using this type of connection.

Across the UK, 4G is becoming the next big thing for ‘on the go’ broadband, offering faster download speeds than the current 3G service.

Packages and providers

Now with even more web browsing options, broadband providers offer a wide range of packages.
Some of the UK’s leading providers, including BT, TalkTalk, Sky and Virgin Media, offer packages that provide broadband, phone and TV. This makes it even more convenient to get essential connections, without contracting yourself to more than one provider.

Instead of having to get broadband and phone combined, packages are now available for just an online connection.

Download speeds can impact the cost; therefore comparing what options are available can help you decide which package is best for you.

Broadband Speed Test

Find out whether you could be getting faster home broadband speeds. Our speed test will check your current broadband and let you compare with other speeds in your area.

Test your broadband

Contract Renewal Reminder

Our handy broadband contract renewal reminder service will let you know when your contract is coming to an end, so you can look for the best new deals.

Set your reminder

Broadband Usage Calculator

Answer a few quick questions and our broadband usage calculator will give you a data estimate for your household. Using this we’ll recommend the best kind of deal for you.

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