Freeola posted on Sunday July 24th, 2016

Broadband has been a pretty hot topic lately, especially with the Government Agenda for the current year proposing that every household will have the legal right to high speed broadband (at a proposed minimum speed of 10Mbps). For a long time ADSL broadband has been the most readily available and most popular broadband service. However fibre broadband has become increasingly popular and its availability is also growing. In this post we will take a look at what ADSL and fibre broadband are - as well as taking a look at the recent buzz around fibre - to see if it is really justified.

It is also worth noting that ADSL does not always provide users with speeds in excess of 10Mbps, so perhaps fibre broadband could be the solution that people have been waiting for?

So what is ADSL Broadband?

The reason for ADSL's popularity is that it is readily available, and is broadband through a phone line, using the already widely installed copper lines. So if you already have a phone line, chances are ADSL broadband is available to you. A micro-filter plugs into your telephone socket and separates the broadband data frequencies from analogue phone frequency. This means that you are still able to use your phone when you are online - unlike old dial-up internet.

ADSL2+ is a newer protocol, which uses double the bandwidth frequencies of standard ADSL, with higher frequencies used for faster data transmission over short distances, allowing for faster broadband speeds. However the higher frequencies degrade in the copper line over much shorter distances; so customers will only get the benefit of the higher speed on a short line. Customers living more than 3.5k away from the telephone exchange are unlikely to notice any significant increase in speed, however they should experience a more stable and reliable connection.

There are a number of factors that will affect the speed you experience for both ADSL and ADSL2+, such as:

  • The distance from your home to your local telephone exchange.
  • The quality of the copper line.
  • Quality of cabling and equipment.
  • Demand at peak periods.
  • Bad weather (EMI: Electromagnetic Interference).

All in all, ADSL/ADSL2+ is a huge technological leap from dial-up; with connections always on and no need for a second line. But the distance to the exchange plays a large part in the speed that you receive. Also with more demanding internet services and multiple devices now being commonplace in most homes - many people need and want higher speed internet than what is currently offered, so is fibre the answer?

So what is Fibre Optic Broadband & what is all the fuss about?

Fibre is the latest advancement in broadband technology. The name comes from the fibre optic glass cables, which transfer the data. Unlike copper lines, the fibre optic cables are specifically designed for Internet use. In fibre-optic cabling, data is transferred by beaming light into the cable at one end, this light travels through the cabling until it reaches the opposite end and its destination. As you can imagine, given that light travels at the speed of light, this makes for much faster delivery of data than a copper wire, which relies on voltages traveling down a metal wire - a process which encounters a lot more resistance, therefore limiting the speed.

The most common set-up is fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), this is where the fibre optic cables run from the telephone exchange to the street cabinet - the copper cables then run from the cabinet to the customers home, known as the 'last mile'. So the data can travel super fast from the exchange to the street, but it's a little slower from the cabinet to your home. People living in more rural areas should expect broadband speeds to be on the slower side. However there are fewer problems with slow down and drop off over distance, and speeds are typically over 30Mbps. So the results from fibre appear to be far superior to that of ADSL, with good connections sometimes offering speeds of up to 10 times faster.

Light obviously travels extremely fast - however you won't be getting your broadband quite at the speed of light, for the following reasons:

  • Although it's much better than ADSL inevitably there will be some signal loss.
  • Connections can struggle at peak times - there is a limit to the amount of data that can be transmitted at one time.
  • Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), means that copper cabling can slow down the 'last mile'.

With fibre still being pretty new - it is not available to everyone. Around 86% of the UK currently has access to fibre broadband, it is expected that by 2017 it will be available to 95% of the UK. Unlike ADSL where the existing cables that are already installed - fibre lines have not been laid as widely, so areas (especially rural) will have to wait a little longer.

Should you switch?

There are definitely a few factors that could help determine whether it is worth switching or not. Firstly it will depend on whether fibre broadband is available in your area. To check if Freeola's fibre broadband is available in your area, take a look at our handy broadband checker.

As fibre is a new and superior service, it is reflected in the price. There tends to be a fairly significant price difference between ADSL and fibre, as well as longer period contracts for a fibre service. So it's worth considering whether the increased speed is worth the additional costs. Therefore it depends on what you tend to do online. If you just browse the internet, keep up to date on social media and do a little online shopping, it's unlikely that you would notice a huge difference. If your current broadband connection lets you complete these tasks sufficiently, justifying the extra cost is a little more difficult.

If you tend to use your connection to stream shows or movies (using services such as NetFlix), download a lot of content and have several users on several devices all accessing the internet at once, then fibre will improve your experience, making the additional cost more than worth it.

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