ADSL, Cable & Fibre: What’s The Difference?

November 25th, 2020
ADSL, Cable & Fibre: What’s The Difference?

In this guide, we’ve compiled all the information you need to know to choose the right type of broadband internet for your home. From ADSL to fibre broadband, we’ll help you choose the most competitively-priced type of broadband with ease.

ADSL vs Cable vs Fibre: Your Guide To The Most Common Types Of Broadband In The UK

Broadband provides internet access through multiple different networking technologies including fibre optics, wireless, cable and even satellite. In the UK today, the three most common types of fixed-line broadband are ADSL, cable and fibre.

While there are a few broadband options available out there, your choices will largely depend on the location of your home. For that reason, it’s important not to waste your time focusing on the broadband deals that won’t work for your household.

Use the advice below to get to grips with the different types of broadband connections so you and your family can browse the web and stream your favourite movies with ease.

How Many Types Of Broadband Are There?

While this guide will only focus on the three most common broadband connections in the UK, they’re not the only types on the market.

There are six main types of broadband networks in total. These include:

  1. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). This wireline transmission technology transmits data over traditional copper telephone lines that have already been installed into homes and businesses up and down the country. Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) connections are used primarily by residential customers, while Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL) networks are typically relied on by businesses for services that require significant upstream and downstream bandwidth.
  2. Cable. Cable services allow cable operators to provide broadband using the same coaxial cables that are used to supply TV channels. With comparable speeds to DSL connections, cable modem services connect a wall outlet to a computer.
  3. Fibre Optics. Internet service providers only offer fibre broadband in limited areas in the UK. Fibre broadband is most often delivered through clusters of fibre optic cables at high-speeds.
  4. Wireless. Wireless broadband connects your home to the Internet using a radio-based frequency between the end-users’ location and the service provider’s facility. Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) provide broadband access over short distances, with similar speeds to DSL and cable connections.
  5. Satellite. In exactly the same way that satellites orbit the Earth and transmit phone or TV signals, they can also provide homes and businesses with broadband connectivity. As one of the more expensive broadband options, satellite broadband is useful for providing remote locations or sparsely populated areas with a quick internet signal.
  6. Broadband over Powerline (BPL). BPL is an emerging technology that’s only available in a very limited number of locations. Typically, BPL is provided to homes using existing electrical connections and outlets, delivering speeds that are comparable to DSL and cable.

Which Broadband To Choose

Between all the different broadband types, networks and cables available on the market, you might start to feel your head spin. We completely understand that it can be overwhelming to make an informed decision among the sea of options, but choosing an internet provider doesn’t need to be this way.

While it’s essential to consider the type of broadband connection you opt for, there are four key areas to keep in mind as you shop around. Before you commit, think about:

  • Availability. A high-speed cable or fibre-optic broadband connection is no good if the internet provider doesn’t service your area. If you’re in a rural location, it’s particularly important to look into the availability of various broadband connections. Typically, a satellite internet solution is a smart option in most rural areas.
  • Reliability. An unreliable internet connection can be stressful, counterproductive and downright irritating. It’s almost a certainty that one day your internet router and connected hardware will encounter a glitch or deteriorate over time. An important measurement of reliability is how well an internet service provider prioritises customer service. High-quality customer service teams will get your internet connection back up and running quickly should you run into any problems along the way.
  • Speed. If a fast internet connection is important to you and your family, the number you are looking at when comparing plans is the bandwidth (the volume of information per unit of time that can be sustained). The higher the Mbps (megabits per second), the quicker your internet will be.
  • Cost. No one wants to fork out a lot of money for broadband. The best internet service provider for you will have a good balance between speed and price. To find a broadband deal that works for you, it’s important to shop around and compare prices. Also, don’t forget to consider contract length and terms & conditions. Here at Free Price Compare, our price comparison tool can help you find the most affordable broadband package, without the need to sacrifice speed or stability.

So, which should you choose: ADSL vs cable vs fibre?

Let’s take a deeper dive.

ADSL Broadband

What Is ADSL Broadband?

Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line connections are split into two different types: ADSL and ADSL+2. In short, ADSL is basically just the name given to a broadband connection which works through the copper wires of your home’s existing telephone line.

How Does ADSL Broadband Work?

Both types of ADSL connections work through “copper from the exchange to your home”.

In short, this means the connection from the source to your property uses copper cables. The result is a maximum download speed of around 8 Mbps. ADSL broadband is the oldest type of connection and is generally considered the slowest.

On the flip side, ADSL+2 is an upgraded version of the original ADSL connection. The major difference is that the structure of the line is physically the same (copper from the exchange to your house), only the technology has been updated and improved to enable higher internet speeds.

Typically, the maximum download speed for ADSL+2 is 24 Mbps, but this can vary depending on the distance the connection has to travel.

Cable Broadband

What Is Cable Broadband Connection?

Cable broadband networks use both fibre optic and coaxial cables to deliver superfast internet services (as well as TV and phone services) directly into your home. Just like ADSL, there are two main types of cable connection to be aware of: FTTC and Gfast.

How Does Cable Broadband Work?

FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) works by connecting a fibre optic cable with the exchange and the closest Cabinet to your property. Cabinets are the boxes you will have no doubt seen out on the street. Typically, the closer your home is to the Cabinet, the better.

However, it’s important to be aware that some broadband cables might take a more convoluted path to your property than it initially seems.

As an alternative option, Gfast is basically the same as FTTC except there’s an additional node of technology inserted into the Cabinet that enables faster internet speeds.

While it might seem like a no-brainer to choose Gfast over FTTC, the service isn’t available to everyone in the UK. Unfortunately, only a few internet service providers offer Gfast connections, and your property must be within 500 meters of the Cabinet to successfully qualify.

Is Cable More Reliable Than ADSL?

Unlike with ADSL, internet speed isn’t ever lost when travelling over distance. For that reason, cable broadband typically provides a more reliable service than ADSL. Cable technology has the capability to deliver very fast broadband speeds with the fastest cable broadband packages of up to 150 Mbps.

For example: an FTTC broadband connection uses far less copper cable meaning that fast download speeds of up to 80Mbps can be achieved. However, as we’ve previously mentioned, this will all depend on how far away you are from the Cabinet.

Fibre Broadband

What Is Fibre Broadband?

While FTTC uses fibre optic cables to transmit internet signals, true fibre-optic broadband is classed as Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) — meaning a direct connection between the exchange and your home.

How Does Fibre Broadband Work?

Fibre broadband is delivered through clusters of fibre-optic cables (each individual cable is thinner than a strand of human hair). In recent years, the UK Government has strived to roll out FTTP technology across homes up and down the country, but despite being faster than FTTC, it only makes up a minority of broadband connections.

Using the intricate network of fibre optic cables, the technology is capable of delivering high-volumes of data at the speed of light. For you and your family at home, this means you’re more likely to get faster download speeds and a much more stable internet connection to enjoy 24/7 streaming and browsing.

Is Fibre More Reliable Than ADSL Or Cable Broadband?

In the UK today, FTTP is currently hailed as the best possible type of connection that’s accessible to consumers. Not only does it offer download speeds of up to 2000 Mbps (2 Gbps), but fibre-optic broadband is also significantly more reliable than copper-based connections.

What Is The Fastest Broadband?

Fibre broadband can transmit data at speeds that far exceed what current ADSL or cable technology can achieve. Based on that alone, fibre optic broadband wins the race as the fastest option for home internet in the UK.

The Verdict: Which Is Better ADSL, Cable Or Fibre?

At a broad level, the answer to this question is simple. Out of the three most common broadband types in the UK, fibre broadband is the fastest and most reliable solution.

That said, the main issue with fibre is accessibility. Fibre-optic technology isn’t available to every home across the UK, so it’s important to check the connectivity in your local area and shop around for internet service providers that offer the best compromise.

It bears repeating: while weighing up the different broadband options can be complex and confusing, it doesn’t need to be an overwhelming experience. To make a smart decision, think about broadband type, availability, reliability, speed, and cost.

Choose The Right Type Of Broadband Internet With Ease

Here at Free Price Compare, it’s our goal to make finding the most suitable broadband deals as simple as possible for you. With our comparison service, you have access to free, independent, and impartial advice to help you find the best possible deals.

Our team has a wealth of industry knowledge and experience when it comes to helping customers get the best value for their money. The Free Price Compare team is highly-focused on delivering a first-class service so you can find the right products to meet you and your family’s needs.

If you didn’t find the answer to your question in this guide, browse our other WiFi and broadband guides. Alternatively, take a look through our Help & FAQs section to learn more about how we can help you save.

Grab the cheapest Broadband & Phone Deals

Make savings up to 44% & keep the operational cost lower!!!

Compare Now
Submit your review

Create your own review

Free Price Compare
Average rating:  
 0 reviews
4000+ reviews