What is ADSL?
ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line ADSL broadband connections transfer your data through the copper wires of the existing telephone infrastructure.
The UK infrastructure for ADSL connections is actually owned and operated by a company called Openreach (formerly owned by BT). So, one way or another, you’ll be renting your phone line from Openreach.
As you know, there are many different broadband providers offering ADSL connections. This works by a process known as LLU (local loop bundling). The secondary provider (such as TalkTalk) rents the phone line and exchange space from Openreach, and then installs their own software at the telephone exchanges to provide their broadband service.
ADSL connections are extremely popular and very cheap. This is partly because there’s hardly anything to install (thus not requiring an engineer visit in most cases).
If you do go for ADSL, you’ll be provided with filters to put on your phone sockets. These filters are essential as they keep your internet data, and normal landline phone connection, separate. This allows you to use the internet whilst also using your phone.
Another type of ADSL connection is ADSL2+. This works much in the same way as standard ADSL, but has different software allowing it to provide much faster broadband speeds.
One drawback of ADSL connections, however, is that your distance from the telephone exchange can severely reduce the connection speed you receive. Furthermore, if the copper wires have deteriorated, this can also affect your broadband speed too.
How fast is ADSL broadband?
ADSL broadband packages will invariably provide the slowest internet speeds on the market. Because of this, we’d only recommend getting ADSL broadband if you don’t have access to fibre in your area. That being said, light internet users and people living in small households should get some satisfaction out of these connections, especially outside of peak times.
According to Ofcom’s annual home broadband performance report, the average download speed provided by ADSL connections in the UK was 10.7Mbps in 2021. This is much slower than the average provided by fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connections, which was 42.6Mbps. And it pales in comparison to full fibre connections, which averaged 145.4Mbps
The actual speed you’ll receive from an ADSL connection will vary, however, depending on how far your home is from the streetside cabinet. The further away you are, the longer distance your data has to travel, and so your actual speeds will be lower. Customers in urban areas tend to get closer to their advertised speeds, thanks to typically shorter distances than rural areas.
Is ADSL fast enough for streaming and gaming?
According to streaming giant Netflix, you’ll need download speeds of at least 5Mbps to watch HD content on their site. While most ADSL connections will technically allow this, you’ll notice it will start to struggle should someone else in your household be online at the same time. And don’t even bother if you’re thinking about streaming in 4K.
For online gamers, platforms such as the PlayStation 4 requires a minimum download speed of 2Mbps, but the key word again here is ‘minimum’. Trying to play online multiplayer games on an ADSL connection will feel very sluggish indeed, especially as upload speeds are just as important and can sometimes be as low as 1Mbps with ADSL. If you’re into gaming, we’d always recommend something faster.
How much does ADSL broadband cost?
Because ADSL broadband is the slowest type of connection currently available in the UK, ADSL packages are often some of the cheapest too. You’ll often see ADSL deals on sale for less than £20 a month.
However, just because these deals are some of the cheapest on the market, doesn’t mean you should snap up them instantly thinking you’ve found a bargain. ADSL will feel very slow for even the smallest of households, so you’ll be getting much better value for money by paying a little extra each month for a much faster, fibre connection.
ADSL Broadband: Pros and Cons
As with anything you sign up to, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of getting ADSL broadband over an alternative type of internet connection:
|Why should you get ADSL?||Why shouldn’t you get ADSL?|
|Some of the cheapest broadband deals available use ADSL technology.||Slower speeds will not be suitable for heavy users, i.e. gamers, streamers, large households etc.|
|Much more widely available in the UK than full fibre broadband.||The further your home is from the telephone exchange, the slower and less reliable your connection will be.|
|Greater selection of broadband providers when comparing deals.||If you live in a new building, a telephone line may need to be installed in your home which will cost you time and money.|
|Installation should be quick and easy as it uses the existing copper phone lines that are connected to your home.|
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Where can I get ADSL broadband?
Apart from a few small providers who specialise in localised superfast broadband, you can find ADSL deals on offer from the majority of ISPs in the UK. These include:
What are the alternatives to ADSL?
ADSL connections are cheap, readily available, and easy to get a hold of, so they are a very popular option with the vast majority of broadband customers. However, they’re not for everyone. Maybe you don’t want a landline phone or don’t want to pay for line rental. There are a few other options for you to consider:
- 3G mobile internet: You can get speeds of up to 21Mbps
- 4G mobile internet: Very similar to 3G broadband but with much faster speeds of up to 80Mbps
- 5G mobile internet: The latest generation of mobile internet, these connections provide average download speeds of between 100-200Mbps.
- Fibre optic broadband: Provided through fibre optic cables, this type of broadband has speeds of up to 1Gbps. However, coverage is limited and there are installation costs as the existing phone network cannot be leveraged. Mostly, ADSL is used by people who don't have access to a fibre connection.
Last reviewed: 26 January 2023
Next review: 26 February 2023