What is broadband?
Broadband is a term normally considered to be synonymous with a high-speed connection to the internet. The term itself is technology-neutral and broadband can be delivered by a range of technologies.
ADSL broadband is available across most of the UK and is provided through your existing BT phone line. Your internet service provider (ISP) will provide a modem, or router, to deliver the broadband and this is usually free of charge. ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line – most broadband provided through a phone line is ADSL.
ADSL Max from BT gives you access to download speeds of up to 8Mbps. Most BT exchanges are now ADSL Max-enabled. ADSL2+ more than doubles the speed of an ADSL Max connection, providing up to 20Mbps, by changing the transmission frequency.
The next step up from ADSL2+ is VDSL (very high bit-rate digital subscriber line). This can deliver speeds of up to 52Mbps over very short distances – far too short to reach the exchange – so it only works in areas where fibre optic cables have been laid to new cabinets on the streets. This type of technology is known as Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). If you are familiar with the dull green cabinets that BT normally uses, watch out for bright green cabinets appearing next to them. The closer you live to a bright green cabinet, the better.
Fibre optic is very much the ‘next big thing’ in broadband terms, offering super fast speeds of up to 100Mbps and this is offered by providers such as Virgin and BT. The principle of carrying light signals along glass fibres does ensure much faster transmission speeds than are possible with the normal copper wire. The other advantage is that there is minimal speed deterioration in fibre optic cable, unlike copper wire where speed can fall away quickly over long distances. The current problem with fibre optic is its lack of widespread availability. Whilst Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) offers speeds of up to 40Mbps, Fibre to the Home (FTTH) can offer speeds of up to 100Mbps+ – in fact BT and Virgin have both run successful trials of 1Gbps (1 gigabyte or 1000 megabyte) services.