Different types of broadband

Sep 13, 2022

Historically, the broadband services available to you will depend on your location, and especially how far away you happen to live from the nearest street-side cabinet or exchange. These are known as “legacy services”. Here are some of the main types of broadband legacy services:

ADSL broadband

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) is the most commonly available type of broadband in the UK. It is delivered through the copper wires of your phone line and your internet speed will be affected by how far you live from your telephone exchange. On average, the maximum download speeds achieved via this network type is around 8Mbps or 24Mbps if you're fortunate enough to have access to ADSL2+.

Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband

ADSL is part of a family of DSL electrical signalling systems, used on copper wires for internet connections. The V in VDSL stands for “Very Fast” and while it is much faster than ADSL (or ADSL2+) it actually gets slower faster, so fewer customers can receive these “faster” services. VDSL is also asymmetric.

To compensate for this “getting slower faster” problem, the VDSL equipment is moved closer to people’s houses and can be found in the green street-side cabinets that you may spot in your neighbourhood. The optical fibres extend from the exchange to the cabinet – hence FTTC or Fibre to the Cabinet. While this does to some extent increase internet speeds for end users (at a maximum of 80Mbps which depends on how close you are to the cabinet) as the copper wires are a bit shorter, this is still asymmetric, still quite slow, and still not fibre optic broadband – how can it be if it uses copper wire to connect to your house?

G:Fast is a variation on a theme, and while the technical specs are even faster than VDSL, the speed drop off is also even faster, so even fewer people can get these speeds (up to 330Mbps). G:Fast is also symmetric.

Cable broadband

The only cable broadband operator in the UK is VirginMedia/O2. Where they don’t have their own network, they resell BT’s wholesale copper wire services, same as Sky, Tesco and all the rest. But where they do have their own network they use a different type of copper-based connection. VirginMedia/O2 uses copper-coax cable to get to your house from their street side cabinets, and over this they run a different signalling system catchily called DOCSIS.

While VirginMedia/O2 have focussed on providing really fast download speeds, their upload speeds are much, much slower. Their services are heavily asymmetric.

VirginMedia/O2 is the only operator in the UK to use this technology and they have publicly stated they will transition from their DOCSIS & copper-coax cable network for a full fibre network over the next few years.

Fibre optic, full fibre or FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband

Fibre optic, full fibre or FTTP broadband is delivered through fibre optic cables all the way to your home, it uses no copper at all in the network, and offers symmetrical internet speeds much faster than any legacy copper-based service such as ADSL or cable. This is what Netomnia provides, totally and exclusively. Our network uses no legacy copper services at all, it’s pure optical fibre all the way to your home. This means our network consumes less energy, our network is unaffected by where you’ve chosen to live, services can deliver the same ultra-fast services irrespective of how far away you are, and all services are capable of being fully symmetrical.

Which all sounds like the type of broadband Britain deserves in our opinion!