Connecting to the internet
You might assume that broadband is the only way to connect to the internet. It’s certainly the most widely used, but there are other ways and even broadband can mean different things:
• ADSL Broadband
Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line or ADSL broadband as it’s more simply known, is a connection provided over our home telephone lines. It’s called ‘asymmetric’ as download speeds are much, much faster than upload speeds which has implications that you’ll see later.
BT owns the landline infrastructure in the UK, so when you have an ADSL connection you need to rent your phone line from BT. If you already have an existing phone line, the broadband is added onto the package.
Since a good portion of BT’s network is on copper wire, the speeds and performance can vary significantly from area to area and even week to week for some people.
• Fibre Optic Broadband
Fibre-optic broadband replaces copper wire with tiny strands of plastic or glass, each thinner than a human hair. Fibre optic wiring has less resistance than copper, allowing for much higher internet speeds and a more consistent service.
Fibre-optic networks are also much more energy efficient, requiring 80-90% less energy than copper options. Because they’re more reliable they require less maintenance and they’re future proofed for years to come.
It’s a no brainer to go for fibre-optic then?
Well that would be nice but unfortunately the UK fibre rollout is still ongoing and upgrading to this new technology is expensive. You’ll need to use a post code checker to see if you’re able to use fibre optic broadband where you live.
• Mobile Broadband
With mobile broadband you bypass cables completely and use your mobile signal to connect to the internet. You’ll need to buy a ‘dongle’, which is a modem that connects wirelessly to your mobile network and plugs into your PC.
For some rural communities with poor network coverage, satellite broadband might be the only option available. You receive your signal via a satellite dish rather than cables. While speeds and stability have improved significantly in recent years, it is an expensive option in comparison to others.
When it comes to choosing a broadband package, you’ll be faced with choices around:
- Speed of connection
- Download allowances
- Contract length
The right combination of these things creates the best package for you.
You’ll only be able to work this out by thinking about what type of user you are.