What is cable broadband?

Cable internet is one of the fastest types of connection, but not everyone can get it. Find out more about cable broadband and how it works.

Cable internet is one of the fastest types of connection, but not everyone can get it. Find out more about cable broadband and how it works.

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
24 AUGUST 2021
3 min read
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What is cable broadband? 

Cable broadband brings the internet into your home using a mix of fibre and coaxial cables, rather than the copper wires used for your phone line.

It’s one of the fastest types of internet connection you can get, delivering speeds of up to 152Mbps, but it’s a lot less common than ADSL or fibre broadband.

Who are the cable broadband providers? 

There are two cable providers in the UK - Virgin Media and WightFibre, which provides services in the Isle of Wight. You’ll need to be in an area served by the cable network to use it, so it’s not an option for some broadband customers.

Where it’s available, it’s often bundled into service packages that include your TV and phone. Although this can mean large monthly payments, it could prove more cost effective than buying each separately.

Cable vs fibre broadband - what’s the difference? 

Technically, in the UK both cable and fibre broadband connections use fibre optic cables to send data. The difference lies in the last little jump, from your local exchange to your home.

Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) fibre broadband is normally connected from your street to your house using copper phone lines, whereas cable broadband connects from the local exchange to your home using the cable television structure.

The cable TV network uses coaxial cable, which normally transmits data faster than copper, and doesn’t tend to lose as much speed over longer distances. Either way they’re both very fast, and either would be a good option for a household with multiple internet users streaming TV, browsing and gaming at the same time.

A big difference here is availability. There are a lot more fibre packages available than cable. Around 96% of homes can now access superfast broadband, according to Ofcom. But, in terms of price, there may not be a big difference between cable and fibre internet packages.

How fast is cable internet? 

Cable internet is fast. As with any internet service, speeds can vary a lot depending on factors like where you live and what router you use, but Virgin Media could offer average download speeds of up to 516Mbps and its Gig1 Fibre broadband offers download speeds averaging 1,104Mbps .

That’s more than enough for most households, even if everyone’s using the internet at the same time. Read our guide to understanding more about broadband speed.

Are there cable broadband providers in my area? 

To see if you can get cable internet where you live, simply tell us your postcode. We’ll then compare quotes from different broadband providers in your neighbourhood, so you can see what’s available in your area. Find out what’s available where you live.

What other types of broadband internet are available? 

There are a few different types of broadband available, with each using a different method to transmit data: 

  • ADSL: sends data over the phone lines 
  • Fibre-optic uses fibre-optic cables to transmit data, either to your local telephone exchange (FTTC) or all the way to your home (FTTP) 
  • Wireless internet involves fitting an antenna to your home to receive wireless transmissions 
  • Satellite broadband transmits via satellite, so, it’s available anywhere, but can be quite expensive 
  • SDSL: a specialist version of ADSL, symmetric digital subscriber line (SDSL) has faster upload speeds that require a second phone line

What’s the difference between cable and ADSL broadband? 

ADSL uses copper phone lines to deliver broadband. It tends to be the cheapest broadband option and it’s the most widely available – virtually every UK home can get it. But it’s also the slowest type of connection and probably won’t suit you if you have lots of people in your home using the internet.

What’s the right broadband deal for me? 

There are lots of different broadband services and packages out there. Compare the Market could help you find the right deal for you by comparing quotes from a range of internet service providers, to see what’s available in your area. 

Simply tell us your postcode to see if you can find cable broadband deals

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