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What Is ADSL?

Last updated: 24. 03. 2020

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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Although becoming outdated, ADSL broadband connections are high quality and very reliable.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.

Where can I get ADSL broadband?

Every major broadband supplier in the UK has ADSL broadband deals as standard. Some providers will also have options for ADSL2+, mobile broadband, or the new fibre-optic cable broadband too.

Almost every home and business in the UK can receive ADSL broadband, and the government even has an initiative to help get a 2Mbps connection to everyone as soon as possible.

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
  • Cable 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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