What is broadband?
Remember the slow internet service you used to receive via your
telephone that clogged up the line and made a terrible noise while
it connected? That's narrowband, aka "dial up". Broadband is the
next generation of internet technology on from dial up. It connects
at a higher speed, doesn't require you to dial in a number to use
it and won't block your granny from calling your mum while you're
Traditional broadband works either via your telephone cables, or
via new fibre optic cables that are faster and more efficient. You
can also opt for a cable broadband service that doesn't require you
to have a home phone service - if you're more on your mobile and
barely on your home phone, broadband without a landline is a great
option for you.
This guide will explain all there is to know about the different
types of broadband and what speeds they can deliver. If you want to
know which broadband service you should consider, give us a ring on
0808 256 6606.
What are the different types of home broadband service?
Click on a link to find out more about the different types of
broadband technology and download speeds.
ADSL broadband - this is the most popular
type of broadband in the UK
Fibre optic broadband - the fastest and
most innovative broadband technology on the market
Cable broadband - this type of broadband
delivers internet via the UK's cable network
Mobile broadband - broadband that you can
take with you when you are travelling
Satellite broadband - a great solution
for rural areas
Wireless broadband - this type of
broadband doesn't require any wires or cables
Basic broadband - speeds of at least
Superfast broadband - speeds of 25Mbps
Ultrafast broadband - speeds of 100Mbps
There are two types of broadband served down your phone lines:
ADSL and fibre optic.
ADSL is currently the most popular type of broadband
service in the UK. It stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber
Line. Thankfully, the most complicated part of this broadband type
is only its title. ADSL uses telephone lines to connect you to the
internet without interfering with your home phone service. This
means that if you want to get this type of broadband, you will need
to have an active phone line.
Is ADSL broadband right for me? If you choose
to buy an ADSL broadband product, make sure you know what you
require from your internet service (will you use it just to read
the news, or to download films?) as there are a myriad of suppliers
out there who provide ADSL broadband, from budget packages to those
that come at a higher price. Of course, the more you need from the
service, the higher the cost.
ADSL broadband providers: As mentioned earlier,
this is the most popular type of broadband in the UK. If you are
looking for a cheap broadband deal, providers such as TalkTalk, Plusnet or Direct Save Telecom are
worth a glance. If you are interested in using your internet a lot
then it's better to go for a more expensive broadband deal. BT or Sky will definitely do the job.
Fibre optic broadband
This technology is the newest one of the bunch. It sends data as
pulses of light through optical fibres. It suffers less
interference than ADSL meaning it can carry signals over vaster
distances and with greater bandwidth. This means it can send and
receive a lot more data because the connection speed is a lot
faster. True fibre optic broadband can supply you with speeds as
quick as 300Mbps. To learn more
about fibre optic broadband, make sure you read our detailed fibre optic guide.
Is fibre optic broadband right for
me?? Customers who require a quick connection as
they hate waiting for movies to buffer and think that disruptive
streaming is as horrible as the plague. Also families who connect a
few devices to the same network may wish to consider fibre optic
broadband as this technology will not let customers suffer
annoyingly slow speeds due to multiple internet user activity.
Fibre optic broadband providers: Virgin Media provides fibre
optic broadband via its cable network (see below), whereas BT,
TalkTalk, Plusnet and Sky provide it through the traditional
telephone network infrastructure. You can find all of our top fibre
optic broadband deals here.
Cable broadband delivers internet via cable networks. What makes
this option attractive to customers is that there is no need to
have a telephone line active in your home to get broadband.
Cable internet services are connected using an optical fibre
cable which is capable of supporting very high speed internet
services. This cable is directly taken into your home from the
street, and connected to a special cable modem, which in turn
connects to your computer. While this technology is very popular,
its availability is still rather limited when compared to ADSL.
That's why you are likely to hear someone asking whether or not you
lived "in a cabled area" as only these locations can take advantage
of this type of broadband.
Is cable broadband right for
me? Because cable broadband can deliver high
speeds, this type of broadband is good for families, or who the
industry refers to as "heavy users" which means consumers who
stream a lot of content (for example use BBC iPlayer), download
music, high quality photos and films.
Cable broadband providers: The only cable
network operator in the UK is Virgin Media. It offers an array of
packages from basic to those suitable for "heavy users". As
mentioned before, to get cable broadband, you need to check if it's
available in your area, as currently only about two thirds of the
UK can receive the service. Make sure you use our postcode
checker to find out if Virgin Media is available where you
Mobile broadband keeps you connected on the go. Using this
technology, you are likely to receive relatively slow broadband
speeds - compared to ADSL and cable - however much faster than dial
up. Unfortunately speeds vary from area to area. This means you
might get a splendid service in one location but an appalling one
When you sign up to mobile broadband deal, you will receive a
"dongle" which is a USB stick that you can easily connect to your
computer or laptop. Inserting the dongle into your laptop will then
automatically install software provided by the supplier which will
keep you up to date on how much of your allowance have you used up
and what the reception is like. Like cable, this type of broadband doesn't require
customers to have an active phone line.
Is mobile broadband right for
me? Business people who constantly
travel around the country or basic broadband users who only need
internet for email correspondence and reading the news as the
service has monthly limitations and is considerably slower than
other broadband types. It's also worth mentioning that only one
person at a time can go online.
Mobile broadband providers: You have a
whole army of providers to choose from: Vodafone, O2, EE and Three (3). You can take out a mobile
broadband contract or use the service on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG)
Not to be confused with Sky's digital TV services, satellite
broadband is a technology which supplies broadband by installing a
satellite dish on the side of your house. It is yet another way of
getting broadband without a landline. It is also a technology which
can supply internet services to remote and isolated locations,
using satellites to beam the required signal down to the user.
Is satellite broadband right for
me? Households and businesses
located in remote locations as this might be their only option to get broadband, the
speeds of which are somewhat slower than current ADSL and cable
options, however still faster than mobile and dialup. It's worth
noting that although the services are available virtually anywhere,
the products come with monthly usage limits and the installation
and monthly fees are rather costly compared to other solutions.
Satellite broadband providers: There are a few
suppliers that you can choose from, including Tooway, Avanti or
Bentley Walker among others. Click
here to find the best satellite broadband deals.
What about wireless broadband?
Wireless broadband is often referred to as Wi-Fi. If your PC is
Wi-Fi-enabled then you will be able to connect to a wireless
broadband service or hot spot. If the broadband service that you
sign up to (be it ADSL, cable or fibre) also has a wireless router
included, then you will be able to connect your computer to it
wirelessly, and share your home broadband connection with several
computers and other devices such as smartphones or tablets. This
type of broadband suits people who want more choice as to where
they get online within their own home. Wireless broadband is
commonly available now in cafes, pubs, libraries, tube stations and
other public buildings.
There's a lot of jargon used when industry experts talk about
Download speeds or downloads refer to the rate at which you are
downloading content - for example a film or a song. Upload
speeds or uploads refer to the rate at which you are uploading a file, for example your new profile
picture to Facebook or your latest artsy snap to Instagram.
When providers are advertising speeds, they are most likely to
refer to download speeds, as consumers do much more downloading
than uploading online.
So what exactly do the terms "basic", "superfast" and
"ultrafast" mean? Let's start from the bottom and make our way
This is the UK Government established minimum download speed
which should reach at least 2Mbps. With basic broadband, users can
check emails, and download small files without any delays. However
downloading something large like a movie may take one or two hours.
The good news is that urban areas can easily upgrade to better
speeds, the bad news is that extremely isolated areas are likely to
be stuck with these speeds for the time being.
Who can provide basic broadband? You can get basic broadband at
any location as all providers can supply basic download speeds.
However the technology used to deliver the service and the costs
will vary significantly dependent on where you live.
Click here to find a cheap broadband deal.
This is how the UK Government refers to speeds of anything above
25Mbps. With superfast broadband you will never need to wait for a
webpage to load again as it will pop up the second you hit enter. Also, downloading movies and
music will not leave you waiting for hours. Downloading a HD film
will take you only a few minutes if your connection reaches 50Mbps.
Streaming content via websites such as BBC iPlayer is also likely
to be a walk in the park with no interruptions or compromise on the
quality. This is a great solution if your household has multiple
internet-enabled devices to connect - so one member of the family
can be streaming HD quality content whilst another member of the
family enjoys high speed web access at the same time.
Who can provide superfast broadband? Providers such as Virgin
Media, BT, TalkTalk, Plusnet and Sky can all supply you with
superfast speeds. Click
here to find a superfast broadband deal.
This has become the official term for broadband the download
speeds of which reach 100Mbps and above. With ultrafast broadband
you can send out an email in 0.006 seconds, and download a video
clip in 5 seconds or less. In a nutshell - this is lightning fast
broadband which is available to only a minority of urban areas in
the UK. The Government now plans to change this fact by setting up
an Urban Broadband Fund which will ensure that 10 biggest cities in
the UK receive broadband of 100Mbps and more.
Who can provide superfast broadband? At the moment only Virgin
Media and BT have the technology to provide superfast speeds but
their broadband deals are yet to hit the market. A recent study
found that only 0.1 per cent of the UK has signed up for 100Mbps
broadband as it still on the pricey side.
Why not check out our guides on fibre broadband, ways to speed up your home
connection or how to resolve
issues with your internet provider. Get your daily update on
all things broadband, home phone and digital TV from our News and
What broadband deal is right for me?
Still not sure what broadband deal is right for you? Give us a
ring on 0808 256 6606 and we will help you find,
sign up or switch to the best cheap broadband deal available in