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What is ADSL broadband?

Last updated: 12. 06. 2020

What is ADSL broadband?
ADSL packages are the most common form of broadband deal in the UK. However, many people don’t know what ADSL stands for, let alone how it works. In this guide we’ll be talking you through how ADSL broadband works, what alternative broadband options there are, and of course, what ADSL actually stands for.

What Is ADSL?

ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. An ADSL broadband connection is provided over your home telephone line. 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 suppliers offering ADSL broadband internet 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 service.

How does ADSL broadband work?

Although becoming outdated, ADSL broadband connections are high quality and very reliable. They work by transferring your data through the copper wires of the existing telephone infrastructure.

Because they leverage the existing telephone network as operated by Openreach, ADSL connections are extremely popular and very cheap. This is because there’s hardly anything to install (thus not requiring an engineer visit in most cases), and are so readily available as almost every broadband supplier offers an ADSL package of some sort.

If you do sign up for an ADSL broadband package, 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 regular 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.

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 connection:
Why should you get ADSL?
  • Some of the cheapest broadband deals available use ADSL technology.
  • Much more widely available in the UK than fibre broadband.
  • Greater selection of broadband providers when comparing deals.
  • Installation should be quick and easy as it uses the existing copper phone lines that are connected to your home.
Why shouldn’t you get ADSL?
  • Slower speeds may not be suitable for heavy users, i.e. gamers, streamers, large households etc.
  • The further your home is from the telephone exchange, the slower and less reliable your connection will be.
  • 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.

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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:
Not all well-known providers offer ADSL broadband, however, as Virgin Media only offers fibre optic broadband while you won’t find any ADSL deals from Vodafone either. 

How to Compare ADSL Broadband

Comparing broadband deals with usave is easy. Just enter your postcode into our comparison tool and you’ll be presented with a list of broadband deals available in your area. But what do you need to look out for?
One of the main reasons people go for ADSL over fibre is the cost. Prices for ADSL broadband tend to start at under £20 a month, while BT’S 18-month unlimited ADSL deal starts at around £25 a month. 
Apart from the connection, what you get for your money will vary from provider to provider. Average speeds for ADSL broadband packages are usually between 10-11Mbps, but you should also look out for any extras included when comparing broadband deals:
  • Is the router provided for free?
  • Are there any incentives/rewards on offer?
  • Does it come with unlimited calls?
  • Can you add a TV service to your package?
  • What security features are offered?

ADSL Alternatives

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 broadband - you can get speeds of up to 21Mbps
  • 4G mobile broadband - very similar to 3G broadband but with much faster speeds of up to 80Mbps
  • Fibre optic broadband - provided through fibre optic cables, this broadband has speeds of up to 1Gbps. However, coverage is limited and there are installation costs as the existing Openreach network cannot be leveraged
Fergus Cole

Author: Fergus Cole

Fergus is a journalist specialising in the personal finance, energy and broadband sectors. He also has a passion for travel and adventure so tries to make the most of this in any spare time he gets.

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