There are plenty of us who pay little attention to our internet providers, so long as we can check our Facebook, fire off a few emails from time to time, and catch up on the latest Netfix series. This is all very well and good, but the minute you need to rely on your connection for more important work, a patchy connection can end up driving us crazy. In a world where we are streaming more and more video, using Whatsapp and Skype calls as an alternative to the landline, working remotely, and sharing large files across the world, a decent internet connection is fast becoming a ‘need’ rather than a ‘want’.
In the infancy of the internet age, we had dial-up internet, which to all intents and purposes has died off, along with it’s measly 56Kbs speeds. When broadband came around, the internet started to become the thriving network we see today. Speeds of up to 1Mbs seemed positively futuristic at the time, and pretty much satisfied our needs until around 2008, when sites such as Youtube started serving up high definition video. Now, we live in a world where our bandwidth needs have far outgrown anything we could have imagined ten years ago. But even now, there are many people who still struggle along with slow and unreliable internet connections. So what are the options for anyone looking to change their provider? What sort of speeds can we hope for? And why are some options better than others? Below are some details that should help you decipher the differences, and make an informed choice when you are free of your current broadband contract.
ADSL, or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, is most likely the first version of broadband that you came across when you made the switch from dial-up. ADSL utilizes the copper wire that carries your landline calls, and allows for much faster speeds than dial-up. When it was first available to the public, the speeds were around 1mb/s download, but thesearen’t the speeds you can expect now. Some ADSL lines now garner speeds of up to 8mb/s download, and up to 1mb/s upload, which is enough for one person to watch a HD stream from Netflix, while simultaneously chatting away on a regular quality Skype video call. When it comes to speed, ADSL lines really rely on how far you are from your local telephone exchange. The further away, the slower the speeds. ADSL may be enough for your particular situation, but it is by no means a robust solution to a modern home or workplace, and is recommended only for people who can’t get faster options due to location. ADSL 2+ (up to 20mb/s download) is a slight upgrade on the original ADSL, but again relies heavily on the distance between you and the telephone exchange. Because of this, you may find that your ADSL 2+ isn’t much faster than a normal ADSL line.
VDSL, or Very high bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line, is a step up from your regular ADSL line. While VDSL still comes through your copper telephone cable, theoretically VDSL lines can reach speeds of up to 60mb/s, but again, similar to ADSL, the further you are from the telephone exchange, the slower the speeds. If you happen to live over 1km from the exchange you can expect your speeds to deteriorate rapidly, and resemble the same speeds you get from ADSL. If you live close to the local exchange, you may get lucky and experience a perfectly decent connection experience, but it is by no means guaranteed. Upload speeds should also be high compared with ADSL, and high definition video calls should be possible if, yes, you guessed it, live close enough to the telephone exchange. If you only have a choice between ADSL and VDSL, the later is best choice for most people.
If you want speed, reliability, and a future-proofed connection solution, look no further than Fiber. Comparing common fiber broadband packages to ADSL or even VDSL, seems almost unfair when you see the statistics side by side.
That is because Fiber uses glass and plastic fiber optics to deliver your ‘bits’, the speeds are blistering in comparison to its aging copper-based brethren. Where you were restricted to speeds between 1 and 60Mbps download when using ADSL or VDSL, fiber can easily provide speeds of 75Mbps, and in some cases, up to a staggering 1Gbps! That is 1000Mbps. While this is currently regarded as ‘overkill’ for the majority of users, speeds of around 100Mbps are more than acceptable for the average internet savvy family or small business. To put things in perspective, a fiber line capable of downloading 100Mbps should easily cope with 15 HD Netflix streams, or 4 UHD streams. “Why would i need those sorts of speeds?”, you might ask. Well consider the average family of four. If you are streaming Netflix in the living room, conducting an HD video call, while the kids are streaming Youtube and playing multiplayer games in the spare room, you are probably going to be using around 20Mbps. While you may think that this is well below the 100Mbps mark, it is worth noting that 4K streaming is becoming more popular, and in a few years is expected to become the norm. When it does, anything other than fiber is going to have trouble keeping up with the bandwidth demands. Consider fiber as not only the smoothest experience you can get, but also a way to future proof your home.
To conclude, if fiber is available to you, it is hard to recommend anything else. And with prices only marginally more expensive than ADSL and VDSL, it is difficult to see why anyone would prefer a slower and less stable experience. Another option for you could be wireless 4G or LTE internet, but these pretty much always have a data cap, so are only really suitable for very light internet usage. When 5G finally comes out, perhaps things will change, but for now fiber is sitting quite happily at the top of the broadband food chain, and looks to remain there for the foreseeable future.