Between 2009 and 2018 there was a 15% increase in fixed broadband in UK households – with up to 99.7% of the population able to access “decent broadband” (over 1 megabyte per second) as of January 2022. As demand for high-speed internet grows, the government aim to provide gigabit-capable broadband for the entire country by 2030. However, households in the most rural may be asked to pay for installation fees.
While many households in urban areas still rely on ADSL broadband for everyday internet usage, fibre broadband is the future if we want high-speed internet access for all. So, what is the difference between the two and how do they work?
What is ADSL?
ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line.
ADSL is one of the most popular broadband choices as it uses a landline phone connection, which most homes already have. It is, therefore, not only one of the cheapest forms of broadband but tends to be the easiest to install.
How does ADSL work?
An ADSL connects to your internet service provider through a modem via your phone line to connect you to the internet. Unlike its ancestor, dial-up, it works by using digital subscriber line filters or a splitter to separate bands with greater frequencies. That means the copper wires on the landline can be used to make phone calls and access the internet simultaneously.
ADSL maximum speeds
There are two types of ADSL connections – ADSL and ADSL2+ – which now makes up over 95% of ADSL lines.
You can test the speed of your broadband using our speed test tool to see how quick your ADSL or ADSL2+ connection is.
According to an Ofcom report released in 2022, the average download speed of ADSL connections overall was 12.6 Mbps – although this dropped to just 6 Mbps in rural areas.
What are the advantages of ADSL?
There are many advantages to using ADSL broadband:
- Cost-effective: In comparison to other versions of broadband, ADSL is often the cheapest option as phone lines are already installed.
- Widely available: ADSL broadband is available for any household with a phoneline so is ideal for people who live outside urban areas where broadband coverage is lower.
- Easy installation: Unlike fibre, ADSL does not require a big installation process and is simple to set up.
What are the disadvantages of ADSL?
However, with advantages come many disadvantages:
- Slow download speeds: ADSL connections use phone lines which were not specifically made for transmitting data so are much slower than other broadband connections, like fibre.
- Congestion: Using an ADSL connection means that you will be sharing that connection with other people, which can cause congestion during busy periods of the day.
- Line rental: As ADSL uses phone lines to connect to the internet, a payment for line rental is required.
What is fibre broadband?
Fibre broadband is a type of internet connection that gives a faster and more reliable connection to your home. Fibre broadband comes in two forms – FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet) and FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises).
- FTTC: An FTTC broadband connection is one of the most common broadband types. Unlike an ADSL connection, this is broadband without a phone line. While it may use copper phone lines, this is to connect from the modem in your home to a street cabinet. From there, fibre optic cables are used to reach your internet service provider.
- FTTP: The future of high-speed internet! While this connection type also uses fibre-optic cables, it connects directly from your home to your internet service provider rather than connecting via a street cabinet. This leads to a faster, more stable connection. Although FTTP connections are still limited in many rural areas, they are available through specialist providers like Broadway.
How does fibre broadband work?
Fibre broadband is a type of broadband that is delivered via fibre optic cables. Depending on your connection type (FTTP or FTTC), you are connected to your internet service provider through a modem either directly to your ISP (FTTP) or through a street cabinet (FTTC) – check out our guide to rural broadband.
Advantages of fibre broadband
Fibre is a future-proofed technology that offers many advantages for customers opting to choose this type of broadband for their home:
- Fast internet speeds: ADSL connections can typically only reach up to 20 Mbps but a fibre connection can have speeds of up to 150 Mbps.
- Better connection: When using an FTTP connection, the number of users active on fibre broadband does not generate any lag or affect the speed of your connection. FTTC connections can be affected during peak times but not to the same extent as ADSL.
- Greener energy: Fibre broadband is a long-lasting solution and has been known to reduce the carbon footprint of internet users due to the usage of Silicon Dioxide (SiO2). The material, used to make fibre-optic cables, is much more efficient and less environmentally harmful than the use of copper wires.
Disadvantages of fibre broadband?
With the many advantages of fibre broadband, there are a few downsides:
- Fragile materials: Fibre-optic cables are thinner than copper wires and are easier to damage and break.
- Short-term cost: Fibre broadband can be cheaper and more effective in the long run but installing the broadband can be expensive.
- Fiber-fuse: Large amounts of light meeting an imperfection in the fibre can destroy metres of fibre cables which can cause outages.
- Limited availability: To have fibre broadband installed you first must make sure that where you live is eligible; it is not currently available everywhere in the UK.
What is the difference between fibre broadband and ADSL?
ADSL and fibre broadband both do essentially the same thing – provide an internet connection to our homes. However, there are significant differences between the two.
Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Lines use copper wires to deliver broadband on the same line as your home phone line. Fibre broadband delivers broadband from your ISP to your home via fibre cables either via a street cabinet or directly to your home.
Fibre broadband is the more expensive option, especially when you factor in installation prices. But it provides a faster connection than ADSL and allows multiple device usage without interrupting your broadband speed.