For home broadband, there are various different types of connection available. And for those not in the know, the perks and restrictions of each can seem fairly opaque. Our guide will shed some light on the finer details of each so you know exactly what you are getting.
Dial-up’s successor runs on copper cables, using your home phone line for your internet connection. An ADSL connection is fine for casual users of the internet, those who occasionally download but rarely upload, as copper isn’t the best at transmitting data.
ADSL connections can vary significantly when it comes to speed, because it’s essentially down to how far from an exchange your home is. ADSL1 and ADSL2 are the two standard types of connections here, the latter typically being better for speeds.
If you’re still using an ADSL connection then it may be time to switch providers. use our comparison tool to find the best broadband quotes for your area.
Fibre broadband uses fibre optic cables to carry its connection, as opposed to copper ones. As such, speeds are significantly faster due to an essentially limitless range of data transmission. Like ADSL, there are two types of connection when it comes to fibre: Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). An FTTC connection uses the existing copper cabling between the curb and your home to complete the connection; an FTTP connection uses full fibre optic cabling all the way to your house, no copper involved. As such, FTTP is the faster of the two.
While not long ago an enviable service reserved for the premium-paying city dwellers, fibre optic broadband is now available to over 95% of UK households.
Cable broadband uses a combination of fibre optic and coaxial (high-frequency transmitting) cables to connect your home to a fibre cabinet. It’s like FTTC, but instead of a copper connection to your home, a much faster coaxial cable is used. It’s still not quite as fast as a FTTP full fibre broadband connection, but it’s pretty close.
Currently, cable broadband is only available in certain parts of the UK.
Best known as WiFi, wireless broadband is essentially an internet connection without any cables. Whether you choose ADSL, fibre or cable broadband, you’ll have a route; a physical, central hub which lives in your house and gives you internet access.
Any device with WiFi capabilities can connect wirelessly to a router. That router receives your broadband connection through copper, coaxial or fibre cables, and then transmits that into radio signals which your device picks up.
While almost all of the UK can now enjoy ADSL broadband or faster, there are still rural areas where strong connectivity isn’t a given. If you live in an area with poor network coverage, it’s possible your only broadband option is via satellite. As the name suggests, this connection relies on a signal being transmitted from a satellite to a dish on your house.
Very few providers offer satellite broadband, and those that do charge a steep premium due to the logistical costs of facilitating a broadband connection this way. And even then, speeds won’t come close to those offered by fibre connections, though for some satellite broadband may be your only option, for now.
With mobile broadband, your internet connection comes from your mobile signal. Usually, you’ll need to buy a dongle to harness this signal, or you can use your phone as a WiFi hotspot.
What are the cheapest types of connection?
You’d think that the slower the connection, the cheaper your broadband deal, right? Well, not necessarily. As we’ve established, types of connection like satellite pale in comparison to fibre when it comes to speed, but cost considerably more. And while ADSL is generally marginally cheaper, due to the ubiquity of fibre broadband we’re now seeing deals where prices rival that of slower, copper-cable broadband packages.
That being said, prices still depend on where you live and what providers operate in your region. In areas where fibre is still up-and-coming, an ADSL connection could still be considerably more affordable. The safest option for a reliable yet affordable connection is to compare broadband providers for your postcode to see what the most competitive deals are.
Which connection is right for me?
Availability aside, determining which type of connection is right for you depends on how you use the internet.
Lighter users are considered to be small households who use the internet for occasional streaming from no more than one or two devices simultaneously, and general browsing.
Heavier users are larger households where there are multiple devices connected simultaneously. Some may be streaming, perhaps in 4K, others may be gaming online. Use our guide to find out more about what speeds your household needs.
It’s worth noting that uploading requires much more bandwidth than downloading. So, if you’re working from home and are file-sharing, as well as finding yourself on frequent video calls, you’ll likely want a fibre connection.
When it comes to types of connection, generally your options are ADSL, fibre or cable. Weigh up your needs and the cost of broadband deals when considering which is right for you.