What Are the Different Types of Broadband?

Have you ever stared blankly at a broadband brochure, unable to work out the difference between the options? Acronyms, technical terms and contradictory articles combine, seemingly to make things as confusing as possible. But don’t worry! If you’re new to broadband and want to find out more about it, then read on.

In this post, the terms will be brought down to their most basic forms so that you can compare broadband options with ease.

What exactly is broadband?

Scientifically speaking, broadband is a wide bandwidth data transmission, transporting multiple traffic types and signals. To put it simply, it’s a high-speed internet connection. This type of system means you can send large amounts of information quickly between electronic devices.

Before broadband, you would access the internet with ‘narrowband’ dial-up connections. Broadband is much quicker and can be used to do more things simultaneously. A broadband connection can be accessed at any time and is never switched off. If you can use your landline at the same time as the internet – congratulations, that’s broadband. Used by more than 60 million people a year, broadband is the UK’s most popular form of internet connection.

What about the different types?

There are three kinds of broadband that are the most common in the UK. These are (A)DSL, Fibre and Cable.

DSL/ADSL

This acronym stands for Digital Subscriber Line, or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. Not to be confused with dial-up internet, this is the most common connection in the UK and is internet you access through your copper-based phone landline. There are two kinds frequently used in the UK – ADSL1 and ADSL2+.

Generally speaking, ADSL can reach speeds of up to 24mbps (megabytes per second). However, this is tied to your location – the further away you are from your telephone exchange, the slower your internet will be.

Fibre broadband

The most simply named type of broadband in the UK is fibre optic. This quite literally uses fibre optic cables to send data. It comes in two kinds – FTTC, or ‘superfast’, and FTTP, or ‘ultrafast’.

The first is Fibre to the Cabinet, the slower of the two. Fibres go to the ‘cabinet’ on your street, and from there, copper cables go to your house. According to Ofcom’s research, superfast broadband, at speeds of or above 30mbps, is now available to 90% of UK properties.

Fibre to the Premises is much less readily available. But it is much quicker, at up to 1gbps. In fact, this is the quickest option for broadband currently available. The difference between FTTC and FTTP is comparable to the difference between 4G and 5G on your phone.

Cable

Like FTTC broadband, cable uses fibres to go to your street cabinet. The difference here is that then from the cabinet is a ‘coaxial cable’ network, the same cables that deliver cable TV. These cables transmit data faster than the copper wires, so cable internet is faster than superfast fibre broadband.

Cable is more reliable than ADSL and at up to 152mbps, faster than FTTC. Also, unlike ADSL, it can deliver fast broadband speeds regardless of distance. However, it is still not as fast as FTTP broadband.

Other kinds of broadband

There are a few kinds of broadband that are accessible in the UK, but are much less popular.

Satellite

If you live somewhere very remote, you may have to use satellite broadband. It’s probably the easiest to understand – it comes from a satellite in orbit.

Satellite broadband download speeds typically range between 2-30 Mbps, depending on your provider. Although much slower than fibre optic broadband, it’s on a par with standard ADSL broadband. However, it is much more expensive and can be affected by inclement weather, so it is really a last resort. Download and upload speeds can also vary quite dramatically, but competitive deals are becoming more widely available.

Wireless

This one is a little harder to explain. Essentially, if broadband is not possible (via cable or telephone wires), it may be available using wireless technology. Think Wi-Fi Hotspots, like in an airport or at certain shops on the high street. You can also occasionally access mobile phone style ‘roaming’ facilities. A quickly developing alternative is WiMAX, or ‘worldwide interoperability for microwave access’. This makes it possible to provide broadband to areas where other technology is unsuitable.

Mobile

Mobile internet is also classed as broadband – but you wouldn’t want to use it to support a whole business! This is the 3G, 4G and 5G you use on your phone when you get disconnected from the Wi-Fi. Think of the charges you’d rack up!

However, this can be useful if you are working on the move, for example, if you’re working on the train and its internal Wi-Fi has gone down. But you have to be careful, as it can be slow, and in rural areas, the coverage can be very patchy.

Choosing the right type of broadband for your UK organisation

When making a decision about broadband, it’s crucial to account for three things – your location, your budget, and your needs. There’s no point in splashing out on ultrafast FTTP fibre optic broadband if you mainly use the internet for sending the occasional email. But equally, if you’re constantly uploading and downloading massive files, and need it done quickly and reliably, try to avoid using satellite broadband.

Above all else, be sure to choose the right provider. At VS Group, we specialise in broadband for the UK voluntary and small business sector. Understanding the unique requirements of your organisation, we can recommend the right type of broadband to keep you connected. Get in touch today to talk about your options in more depth.

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