What is the Difference Between ADSL and Wireless Broadband
Updated October 6, 2023
There was a time when the internet was a simple thing. You’d sit at the family PC and access the internet over a dial up modem that made a funny sound when you logged on and meant no one could get through on the phone (remember the world before mobiles?).
Now there is a growing range of broadband products available and it can be hard to be sure which offers what. Here’s our guide to the differences between the types available.
What is Wireless Broadband?
Wireless broadband, or WiFi, is the standard way homes across the country get on the internet but it is a misnomer. While 3G connections for smartphones transmit data through the air, the wireless bit of wireless broadband is the connection between the device you are accessing the internet on and your wireless router. The broadband is delivered to your home through cables, just like if you accessed internet through an ethernet cable connected to your modem. The wireless router essentially does the job of that cable and means wireless broadband can in fact be ADSL, SDSL or Cable. So what is the difference between those?
What is ADSL?
Standing for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, ADSL works over the copper wires of home telephone lines, so it is almost universally available. ADSL connections are reliable and fast enough for the majority of internet users – though as streaming gets more and more popular that may well change – but the quality of the connection diminishes as you get further from the exchange, and as the cables that serve you degrade. ADSL2 has been launched and is growing in popularity. This uses different software and protocols to speed up the connection on the same cables, meaning streaming video etc. is now quicker.
What is SDSL?
While domestic broadband users are most likely to get their internet over ADSL lines that their home phones also sit on, business users have the opportunity of an SDSL connection. The difference between the two is that while ADSL dedicates most of the bandwidth to downloading, SDSL, which stands for Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line, dedicates equal amounts to uploading and downloading. Domestic users are unlikely to need this facility but for businesses that send large data files or use VPN this can be very useful. Overall download speeds sit at basic ADSL levels.
What is Cable Broadband?
People living in cities and major towns can now subscribe to much faster connections in the shape of cable (also known as fibre optic) broadband. As the name suggests, this works on a different network of cables capable of providing speeds up to 100Mb, which makes streaming a doddle and means you can download large files in no time. The fastest speeds require the cable to be connected directly to the home (FTTB – Fibre to the Home). That is rare, however, with most connections either FTTB or FTTC (Fibre to the Building or Fibre to the Cabinet) which relies on copper wires carrying data over the final few yards, leading to a drop in speed.