What is broadband? DSL, cable and fiber explained

Broadband is the general term for a high-speed Internet connection used in our homes, offices and stores.

In short, it’s a connection that allows you to use multiple devices to surf the web simultaneously. An average home now has around 10 devices that require an Internet connection, according to an Aviva study, and broadband allows them to connect to the Internet at the same time.

There are different types of broadband available in different parts of the world, and you might even have various options available to you. These include ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), cable or broadband fiber, but there are others, including satellite. Nowadays, you can even get home broadband via 4G and 5G.

In the UK, popular broadband providers include BT, EE, TalkTalk and Plusnet. In the United States, Xfinity, Verizon, and AT&T are three of the largest Internet service providers (ISPs).

How is broadband different from mobile broadband?

Home broadband, or at least the “broadband” that most people talk about, is a wired Internet connection in your home that is turned into Wi-Fi by a wireless router installed in your home.

Cable, DSL, and fiber broadband are common wired connections. But you can also have “mobile broadband” that uses 4G or 5G. This is essentially home broadband which is not provided by copper or fiber optic cables, but by mobile data networks. This type of broadband is becoming more and more popular because it can offer a faster connection than, for example, ADSL in rural areas, and in some urban areas covered by 5G, mobile broadband can be faster. than even high speed fiber.

However, there is another type of mobile broadband that you can use while you are traveling. It’s not just the 3G, 4G or 5G built into your phone called mobile data (at least in the UK). It is still provided over the mobile network, but from a battery-powered portable wireless router. They are often referred to as “Mi-Fi” devices or mobile hotspots and, like home broadband, allow multiple devices to connect to the Internet at the same time.

You can read more about the best mobile Wi-Fi routers here.

In most cases, it is possible to turn your phone (or tablet or laptop) into a mobile hotspot so that it acts as a mobile Wi-Fi router and allows other devices to share its connection. Internet.

Is broadband different from Wi-Fi?

A lot of people often think of broadband and Wi-Fi as the same thing, which is understandable as they both give you internet access. However, they are not at all the same.

Wi-Fi is a wireless connection to a router or access point using radio waves. So unlike broadband, it is not the Internet itself, but a method of connecting devices to an access point or access point without the need for cables.

For more information, see our separate guide to Wi-Fi vs. Broadband.

What is the difference between broadband and the Internet?

Broadband and Internet are terms that many people use interchangeably, but there are is a distinction. Broadband is the connection between your home and the Internet. The Internet itself, of course, is the global network that allows computers, servers, and other devices to communicate with each other, no matter where they are in the world.

All over the world, people can use a specific type of broadband depending on what is available. This could be ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), cable or broadband fiber.

What is ADSL?

ADSL, or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, is one of the most popular types of home broadband in the world.

It is used through the same copper wires as existing telephone lines. ADSL is the most popular type of broadband available in the UK because it is the easiest to connect. This is because it uses your existing phone line, which also makes it easy to install.

It’s pretty much the same in the US, although it’s just called DSL. It is also available in almost all parts of the country, even in rural areas, as most homes are traditionally wired for a telephone line, even if they do not have a landline installed.


What is fiber broadband?

Fiber is a newer type of broadband. Data is transmitted using light on very thin plastic or glass cables. This allows for much faster speeds than copper wires: Virgin and BT now offer what is known as “full fiber” with speeds of up to 1 Gbit / s (1000 Mbit / s).

There are two main types of broadband fiber: FTTC and FTTP. FTTC, which stands for Fiber To The Cabinet, means these fiber optic cables terminate in a cabinet somewhere near you (up to 1500m) and copper cables are used for the rest of the connection. FTTP, which stands for Fiber To The Property and is identical to “full fiber”, brings that fast fiber optic connection straight to your home, allowing for much faster speeds than copper cables.

Fiber broadband is only available in a few states in the United States due to the high costs of installing the service directly into homes. This is why many are still connected to broadband cable.

What is broadband cable?

Cable broadband is a lot like FTTC. It connects your home to a fiber optic cabinet in your area, but uses coaxial cables (which are used for cable TV) rather than copper cables which are used for landlines.

There is generally no choice of cable companies in a given area, and in the UK Virgin Media is the only cable company. In the United States, Xfinity, Cox Communications, and Spectrum are the most popular cable broadband providers.

Coaxial cables allow faster speeds than copper wire, so broadband cable speeds can reach 500 Mbps in some countries.

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