ADSL vs Cable broadband

About ten years ago, the only way to connect ourselves to internet was using a dial-up connection which had lots of limitations. To begin with, dial-up was not reliable, slow, and often tends to disconnect on the slightest interruption on the line. So, based on today's standards, the dialup will be disregarded by many users for the above mentioned reasons.

Soon, the invention of splitters and filters paved the way for broadband, the always 'on' internet connection. In simple language, broadband refers to a wide range of technologies that offer reliable, high speed internet access. To know more, please read our article on broadband basics.

Comparison between ADSL and Cable Broadband Packages

The best part of ADSL or DSL (the main difference being, ADSL refers to faster downloading than uploading) is that it allows the use of telephone line for both data and voice transmission. After ADSL, improved versions like ADSL 2 and ADSL +2 technologies started hitting the market and you can now enjoy 24Mb broadband, the best ever achievable speed on copper wires.

In simple terms, broadband is a high bandwidth internet connection that is at least ten times faster than dial-up service. Unlike dial-up which is a form of telecommunication only on the traditional telephone lines, broadband has broken this technology barrier and nowadays it uses many technologies like cable, wireless, satellite and the most recently, the FTTH networks. In terms of speed, broadband offers minimum 512 Kbps downstream. On maximum side, broadband can offer up to 100 Mbps using the latest optic fibre networks.

Today, the choices one finds in the UK broadband market are unlimited. There is ADSL broadband which is the dominant internet service type. But we do have other broadband types like cable broadband, wireless broadband and satellite broadband. The number of satellite broadband customers is not many while wireless and 3G mobile broadband is slowly growing in the UK due to its high costs. As such, cable broadband is an alternate for ADSL broadband which is provided a number of ISPs in the UK. The major cable broadband provider in the UK, Virgin Media has over 3.5 million home broadband customers and is the second largest broadband internet provider in the UK.

If you are in dilemma whether to choose ADSL or cable broadband, you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of both the connection types. Basically, both can provide reliable, faster connection, however, you need to take into account the place you live in and the ISP and the infrastructure offered by the ISP.

Comparison of ADSL and Cable broadband

Speed: Virgin Media claims its cable broadband is three times faster than its ADSL counter parts. It has upgraded its L size broadband to 4 Mbps and XL size package to 20 Mbps. With ADSL and its newer versions like ADSL 2 and ADSL+2, there is an increasing range of choice. Be, the ADSL +2 provider offers packages like Be Unlimited and Be Pro which can clock maximum speeds of 24 Mbps. There are other ISPs like UK Online, Bulldog and Sky who offer high speed packages. With ADSL +2 and its previous versions, the actual speeds you get depend upon the distance between your home and DSLAM and the service quality offered by your ISP. While the distance may not be the issue with cable, but the number of people sharing the cable network can impact the speed and the quality of service.

Monthly cost: If you want to go for a stand-alone broadband deal, definitely ADSL is the cheaper option. With monthly cost as low as 9.99 from Pipex or PlusNet and freebies like modem, free setup that come with your 12 month contract, these offers sound more attractive than any Virgin Media deal. You can also find some of the cheapest wireless broadband deals with ADSL providers like AOL or PlusNet or BT.

Cable broadband is the best option, if you consider bundling your broadband with other services like digital TV or mobile service. Virgin Media offers a wide range of broadband bundles that are cost-effective and can save a lot of money for a family.

Initial costs like modem, connection fee are common to both, however, cable connection may cost a bit more initially. With ADSL, the line rental can make your monthly cost a bit expensive.


ADSL connections are easier, simple and hassle-free to get and to install. With the extensive network of BT lines and the increasing network of unbundling, you will not find any difficulty of getting the chosen package. There is also a greater choice of ISPs and their packages.

Currently, Virgin Media is the only cable broadband provider in the UK. Its coverage is just above 50 percent of total households in the UK. To get a Virgin cable connection, you should find out whether Virgin's network available in your area. Use our broadband availability tool for this.

What happens if ADSL is available but you are too far away from the exchange? Here is the catch. You should live within the radius of 5 kms of an ADSL enabled exchange. Again, nearer to the exchange, better the speed.

Our broadband reviews offer impartial guidance to help you to choose the best deal which can suit your needs and budget. We have featured both expert reviews and our members' reviews in this section to make sure that you pick a cheap broadband deal without compromising the quality.

Reliability of connection

With ADSL, the connection quality depends upon the distance from the exchange or DSLAM. So, you may experience slower connection or even complete disconnection at times.

Cable broadband is capable of offering better speeds than normal ADSL connection. However, at times, the speeds of cable can be altered by the number of people sharing the cable network. If you live in an area where more cable users share the network, there are chances that you will get poor connection quality. However, you can contact your ISP to resolve this issue.

Both ADSL 2 and ADSL +2 can provide better speeds and service but tend to degrade after a certain distance, just like ADSL.