What is ADSL broadband?
ADSL broadband - or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line - is the basic and most common type of broadband internet connection. An ADSL connection is generally the slowest and cheapest of the three main types of fixed-line broadband available to buy for your home.
The three main types of broadband are:
- ADSL: delivered directly to your home down the standard copper wires that carry your phone line
- Cable: delivered by fibre and coaxial cables
- Fibre: which relies on clusters of fibre cables
Fibre and cable aren’t yet available everywhere, especially remote areas, so ADSL can sometimes be the only option in these locations. There are two types of ADSL technology – ADSL1 and ADSL2+, which is slightly faster than ADSL1. ADSL is itself a form of DSL (digital subscriber line) - a term for a service that transmits data over telephone lines to establish an internet connection.
ADSL accounts for almost half of the UK’s broadband lines, though, as fibre currently covers 90% of the UK, this is likely to diminish over time as fibre usage expands.
How does ADSL broadband work?
ADSL broadband is delivered to your home through the standard copper telephone wire network that’s run by Openreach. To separate your internet and phone line connection, a microfilter is plugged into your phone connection, allowing you to browse the web, even if someone’s on the phone.
Speeds can vary depending on how far your home is from the telephone exchange, as speed is lost over greater distances. There are two types of ADSL broadband in the UK, each offering different average speeds:
- ADSL1 – typically reaches a max speed of 8Mbps
- ADSL2+ – a significantly faster service with peak speeds of 24Mbps.
Is ADSL fast enough for streaming sites like Netflix?
With typical speeds of approximately 10Mbps, ADSL broadband offers speeds that can stream video content such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer. Netflix recommends a speed of 3Mbps for SD quality and 5Mbps for HD. However, 4K streaming is likely out of reach for ADSL, with a recommended 25Mbps required for stable quality. This is potentially possible with ADSL2+, which has peak speeds of approximately 24Mbps, but this is unlikely to be consistent enough.
What else should I consider when getting ADSL broadband?
Broadband speed is an important consideration for ADSL, cable and fibre. But, there are a few more things to check when you compare broadband deals:
- Price: you should look carefully at what you actually get for your money. Some packages have data limits, which means you’ll pay more on top of your monthly subscription if you download too much. Others have traffic management, which means you’ll get slower speeds at peak times. And what about freebies? Some providers throw in offers, like free security software, shopping vouchers or streaming dongle.
- The type of package you want: should you bundle your phone and broadband, and possibly your TV, into one package? Or would you prefer one of the many broadband only deals that are out there?
- Length of contract: check how long you’ll be committed to the package. Broadband providers continually bring out new deals to attract new customers, so a long-term contract could prevent you from switching and saving money.
How do I compare ADSL broadband deals?
To help you in your search to find the right broadband deal for you - whether you choose an ADSL, cable or fibre connection - simply use our comparison service to help you compare broadband offers based on your postcode and needs.Start a new quote
Frequently asked questions
What are the alternatives to ADSL broadband?
If you just want to browse the web on your computer, then a slower ADSL connection might do. But, if you have lots of devices, you stream media or are into online gaming, then you’ll probably want to explore your other options for faster speeds:
Cable broadband uses a combination of fibre optic and coaxial cables to deliver fast broadband speeds to your home. Cable has an advantage over ADSL, as it doesn’t lose speed over further distances, allowing some cable speeds to be 10x faster than ADSL.
Fibre optic broadband allows the greatest potential speeds, but this depends on the type of fibre service you’re receiving:
- Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) – the fibre optic cables only run to the street cabinet, before transferring the data to your home through traditional copper telephone wires
- Fibre to the premises (FTTP) – the fibre optic cables run directly to the home, allowing for the fastest potential speeds available, up to 1,000Mbps.
FTTC is the most common type of fibre broadband in the UK, as FTTP requires significant work to install across the country. Remember to check for data limits on these packages to find one that suits your usage needs.
How fast is ADSL broadband, fibre and cable?
According to Ofcom, the average broadband speed across the UK is now 46.2Mbps, (up from 36.2Mbps).
Here’s how the three main broadband types compare:
|Broadband||Broadband speeds (max speed)|
What is ADSL+?
ADSL+, also known as ADSL2, offers twice the bandwidth along the same traditional copper phonelines that a standard ADSL connection uses. This means that you can get average speeds of up to 24Mbps.
ADSL+ connects multiple phone lines at the street cabinet using multiplexer technology. While you probably won’t need to know this, ADSL+ broadband connects to an MSAN instead of DSLAM which is used for traditional ADSL connections.
One thing to know though, is that this ADSL+ tech is only at its best over shorter distances. Remember when we talked about how your internet speed drops over the length of the phoneline? ADSL+ operates at a much higher frequency to achieve the faster speeds. This means that the drop off in speed is more noticeable over longer distances, so you’ll only notice the true benefits if you live closer to the street cabinet.
Do I need a microfilter for ADSL?
A microfilter is something that’s plugged into your phone connection. It allows you to browse the internet and still use the phoneline at the same time. With ADSL broadband, your internet and phoneline share the same copper wires; the microfilter helps split this connections.
Is ADSL available in my area?
ADSL is the most accessible form of broadband, available to 99% of UK homes and businesses, thanks to Openreach’s extensive network of phonelines. This means that you’ll only miss out if you’re living way out in the middle of nowhere. All major broadband providers will offer an ADSL connection, where available, but some of the more specialist broadband providers who offer fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections may not offer standard ADSL broadband.
How do I check broadband speeds?
To find out what you can get, use and online broadband speed checker. Use this to compare speeds from people in your area and which providers they’re using to get those speeds.
ADSL broadband is the most widely available, but cable and fibre are still being introduced in some areas – so even if you want a faster connection, you may not be able to get one.