Broadband terminology explained

Today we’re more dependent upon our internet connections than ever before – from simple communications such as Facebook, Whatsapp to video chat with Skype all the way through to bandwidth heavy media services such as Netflix and Amazon Video.

Getting the right kind of Internet connection is critical, but what is out there?  This short guide is intended to give you an idea of what’s available to you.  If you need advice on switching providers, check this out.

We’ll list below from the fastest to the slowest:

  1. Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – Fibre is all the rage at the moment. By far the best, future proof connection is to lay a dedicated fibre optic cable into your house or office. At present there is quite minimal coverage across the UK (although jurisdictions such as Jersey are much further ahead with this roll-out). BT offer fibre to the home branded as BT Infinity 4, and other providers such as Hyperoptic offer growing coverage. Speeds of up to 1gb (1000mb) are available.  Whilst this is best option it is also the most expensive. Click here to see if BT can provide you with Fibre to the Home.
  2. Cable – Providers such as Virgin Media lay a dedicated copper cable (not as fast as fibre, but more than capable even for high demand media streaming) into your property. You may see this advertised as fibre optic, what this means is that fibre is laid to the street cabinet as part of their infrastructure and then the dedicated copper is used to deliver the connection to your property with a technology called DOCSIS 3. Speeds of up to 200mb are available, which quite frankly is stonkingly fast.  Whilst the technology doesn’t require a phone line, the packages available often require you have one.
  3. Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). Again, advertised as a fibre service this technology has a fibre optic cable to the BT cabinet in your street, with the final connection to your house made down your phone line,using a technology called VDSL (although this is slowly being upgraded with G.Fast technology).  Depending upon the distance from your property to the street cabinet you can achieve speeds of up to 80mb.  Again, this is massively fast and suitable for anything that can be thrown at it today.  In the UK you can buy this service from many providers including BT, Sky, EE, TalkTalk, Plusnet, John Lewis and more.  BT has the benefit that, when you subscribe to their service, you also access their nationwide wifi network so you can access broadband away from home for free. Check out BT’s broadband here and Plusnet’s broadband here.
  4. 4G.  Whilst 4G has taken off in the mobile world, it has had limited success beyond niche use cases for home or office broadband.  This was until Relish Broadband came along.  The speeds can be comparable to Cable and FTTC if you have good coverage and you do not need any complicated installation.  The coverage is limited to major urban areas though.
  5. ADSL2/2+.  This technology is widely available and makes use of your standard phone line.  Outside of major urban areas this is the most common web connection and is very competitively priced.  Connections speed up to 24mb can be achieved, although in reality you may see lower speeds depending on your distance from the telephone exchange.  You will be able to stream media such as Netflix over this connection, but you may be limited to bandwidth hungry activity at a time. John Lewis Broadband will offer one if these lines.
  6. ADSL.  This is now a rather data technology, but unfortunately may be the only option in remote areas.  Connection speeds up to 8mb are available, but again the quality of the phone line and distance from the exchange will impact performance.  You’re likely going to find streaming media a challenge with this type of connection, although browsing the web, social networks and emailing will work just fine.



What’s our recommendation here?  We would checkout either a Cable connection such as Virgin Media or a Fibre to the Cabinet connection such as BT Infinity.  These give you good, stable and fast connections that will be able to handle anything you need to do with today’s internet products and services.