Types of Broadband

Roasted, boiled, scrambled, raw, seasoned. So many types. Yum.

Back in the day, we all had to struggle through the tedious, patience-sapping ways of dial-up internet. The modem, which usually looked like a plastic prop from Red Dwarf, would find an internet connection using your phone, and then painstakingly load web pages as if the thing was being paid hourly.

So, moving on from dial-up, as we don’t really wish to further retread such sensitive ground, we take a quick look at the different available types of broadband.

ADSL

Shortened to ADSL because it makes everyone’s lives much easier, Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line became the dominant type of internet connection after dial-up drove everyone insane. It is far more effective at downloading that uploading, so this suits the casual customer.

It is available to 99% of the UK, and transfers data using the copper phone line, without interfering with voice call frequencies. This is why, unlike dial-up, you can still have the phone in use. The speed experienced by an ADSL user can vary dramatically, and whilst there are maximum speeds available, they can also be unachievable. This might seem a little odd, but the fact is that external factors like distance from the exchange and local web traffic will affect your broadband speed, and this is out of the control of your broadband provider.

Fibre

Fibre-optic broadband uses glass fibres instead of the copper lines, and this advanced technology allows for significantly faster data transfer. With ADSL you could see speeds peak at 8Mbps, whilst with fibre you might be looking at ten times that figure. The exact speed available to you depends on your package, with providers offering different deals for fibre. Even the smallest fibre deal could deliver speeds of up to 30Mbps, whilst the top packages boast 80-100Mps.

Without trying to complicate things, you’ll find that most fibre providers revert back to the copper lines for carrying the broadband between the street’s cabinet and your house – the home straight. So you still have fibre broadband, except for that last bit. This means that distance from the cabinet, local web traffic and other external factors can still affect your speed, but your average speed should still be significantly faster than ADSL.

Cable

With Virgin Media, coaxial cables are used for the home straight, and this means that distance from the cabinet is not an issue. Consistency and speed both benefit from the use of cable running right to your home, instead of copper lines.

Wireless

You can set up wireless broadband in your home, as long as you have a fixed broadband connection in place and a wireless router. You would usually do the set-up yourself as it’s pretty easy and self-explanatory, and your laptop or computer will probably have some kind of set-up assistance software.

You can connect multiple devices to the network, as long as they are in range, but an increasing number of devices can slow the connection speeds.

Satellite

Satellite broadband is an alternative option, although there are few providers offering the service. The name is a giveaway regarding how the broadband is operated; essentially you need to be able to see the sky. Limited take-up is hardly a mystery - the high prices for satellite broadband are eye-watering, and you can’t get near the superfast download speeds available through fibre.

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