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ADSL broadband: a guide

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Read our guide to ADSL broadband, see how it compares with fibre optic broadband and find the right speed for you.

What is ADSL broadband?

ADSL stands for asymmetric digital subscriber line, also known as standard broadband. It’s a type of broadband that provides an internet connection through the same line as your home phone.

It’s the most basic and commonly available type of connection. The other types of fixed-line broadband are cable and fibre broadband , which offer faster speeds – but ADSL is cheaper.

How does ADSL broadband work?

ADSL broadband uses the copper cables belonging to BT’s Openreach infrastructure, through which your phone line will also run.

Through a process called local loop unbundling (LLU), companies other than BT can also use the Openreach network to provide an internet connection to your home. The ‘local loop’ is the cabling that runs between your home and your local telephone exchange, so LLU allows different providers to operate their own broadband services over these existing cables.

Remember when you couldn’t use the phone and the internet at the same time? These days, a microfilter separates your internet and phone line connection, so you can use both.

Unlike with fibre broadband , the distance you are from the telephone exchange can influence your download speed – as speed is lost over greater lengths of cabling.

Which providers offer ADSL broadband?

Most providers offer ADSL broadband:

All standard broadband packages come with average speeds of 10-11Mbps.

Notable exceptions are Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Hyperoptic, all of which only offer fibre optic broadband.

What other types of broadband are there?

The other types of broadband you can look for are:

  • Cable – cable broadband isn’t as widely available as ADSL in the UK, but it usually offers faster download speeds. Rather than using BT’s infrastructure, it uses a coaxial cable setup belonging to Virgin Media
  • Fibrefibre optic broadband uses cables made from glass or plastic to transmit data far quicker than cable or ADSL. These days, many homes in the UK can get it – but it can be more expensive than ADSL

There are also a couple of alternative options:

  • Mobile broadband – this gets you wireless internet access on the go. You can connect your device to a dongle, USB modem or MiFi, and it’ll connect to a mobile phone network via 3G, 4G or 5G. Read our page on mobile broadband to find out more
  • Satellite broadband – instead of a network of broadband cables, satellite broadband is transmitted wirelessly via a satellite dish. If you live rurally and can’t get a decent ADSL or fibre connection, satellite broadband will be your best bet. Your provider will install a satellite dish at your home, as well as a modem and wireless router

Use our postcode checker to see what's available where you are. 

How fast is ADSL broadband?

ADSL broadband is comparatively slower than cable or fibre, but the speed you’re likely to get will depend on the type of connection you have. There are two different types of ADSL broadband:

  • ADSL1 – ADSL1 is the slower of the two, usually reaching up to around 10Mbps
  • ADSL2+ – ADSL2+ is capable of faster speeds, often around a maximum of 24Mbps

Not to mention, ADSL speeds can vary a lot, depending on where you live, the distance from your home to your local telephone exchange, and even the weather.

Check your ADSL connection speed

Have a standard broadband package but not sure what speed you’re getting? Check your connection with our quick and easy broadband speed test.

Is ADSL broadband fast enough for 4k streaming?

If you have an ADSL1 connection you’ll likely be able to stream up to HD, but it’s usually recommended you have around a 25Mbps connection speed for stable 4k streaming. An ADSL2+ connection might be able to handle it, but it would likely restrict any other internet usage.

If you want to comfortably stream video in 4K ultra-high definition and still use the internet on other devices at the same time, you’ll need faster broadband. We recommend looking into fibre optic broadband, which usually starts at speeds of 36Mbps and above.

Can I get ADSL broadband?

ADSL broadband is the most widely available type of broadband in the UK, with most UK providers offering it.

If you live somewhere remote and can’t get fibre broadband, you should still be able to get an ADSL connection in your area.

When you compare broadband deals with MoneySuperMarket, just pop in your postcode to see what you can get at your address.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need any special equipment for ADSL broadband?

ADSL is provided through the Openreach network. As most homes are already connected to this network, ADSL broadband will require little to no installation.

Still, depending on where you live and what connection is already in place – if any – you may require new equipment to be installed in your home. Your provider will be able to tell you if this is necessary. Luckily, it should be a quick and easy installation.

Do I need a modem?

Some providers may require you to have a modem in addition to a router for the installation of ADSL broadband – you’ll be told about any requirements when you switch.

Can I cancel my ADSL broadband?

You should be able to cancel your broadband subscription or switch to a new provider. If you’re leaving before your contract’s minimum term is up, keep in mind there are likely to be cancellation fees involved.

How easy is it to switch to fibre broadband?

As long as you can get it at your address, it’s very easy to switch to fibre broadband. In fact, your new provider will take care of the process – plus, as a new customer, you can get the best deals.

Use our postcode checker to compare deals and see what’s available in your area.

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