Broadband Basics

Broadband is an internet connection with a bandwidth of 512kbps or more and can be accessed through telephone line, cable line, radio signals, or even by satellites. Broadband connections need special modems which should be capable of sending and receiving data very fast. Broadband also demands faster processing speed and good memory (Random Access Memory) from your computer. Slow computers without minimum requirements of processor speed and internal memory affect the downloading speed of web pages.

Information can be multiplexed and sent on different channels and frequencies within the band allowing transfer of more information in a give period of time. One of the main advantages of broadband is its capacity of carrying large amount of data over just one cable. Common types of internet broadband connections are DSL and cable modems. DSL modem use the existing phone line while the cable modems use cable line for internet purpose. Broadband is basically a radio term. It has been widely used to depict fast internet connection.

what is ADSL broadband?

ADSL is the technology used in the broadband connections accessed through telephone line. The majority of broadband connections worldwide are accessed through ADSL, and three-fourths of broadband connections in UK use this mode of broadband connection. Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) technology allows faster downloading than uploading and its micro-filter uses the existing telephone line both for making calls as well as for surfing the net at the same time. ADSL is ideal for people who regularly download videos, mp3 music and software updates.

Broadband FAQ's

That's fine, but what does faster download mean to me?

It means that web pages will load a lot quicker than normal and they will appear almost instantly. It also means that you can download large files like video clips and MP's in a much shorter length of time. Not forgetting the fact that you can send and receive emails quicker with large attachments too.

I keep hearing about connection speeds, what are these?

Generally narrowband or dial-up connection refers to the internet connections with a connection speed of 56 kbps (kilobit per second) or below than that. On the other hand, broadband connections begin with a minimum speed of 512kbps and have speeds up to 24Mb.

Presently, most of the broadband connections in the UK have connection speeds between 1Mb and 2Mb while 8Mb connections are becoming popular nowadays.

Explain how can I use my telephone while I'm on-line? That sounds useful!

Broadband enables both telephone calls and your Internet connection to operate on the same phone line simultaneously. This is achieved by plugging a filter (sometimes known as a splitter) into all phone sockets that are to be used allowing voice and Internet at the same time. A filter separates (or splits) the telephone signals from the broadband signal, therefore allowing telephone and Internet connection at the same time.

I see, I thought there would be a catch. So I've got to pay out more money for a filter have I?

Not necessarily, most broadband suppliers offer at least one filter free of charge when you sign up with them.

Right, so what other equipment do I need to connect to broadband Internet?

You will need a broadband modem which also comes with a data cable as part of the package, some filters and that's it!

Show me

OK, so how do I connect them to my PC?

*The above diagrams are reproduced from Tiscali Broadband

That looks simple enough, now explain the various costs to me

Connection Fee:

This is the cost of setting you up with broadband. Some suppliers charge you and some provide free connection.


Again, some broadband suppliers offer a modem free whilst some charge. Make sure you check to see if filters are included in the price too.

Cost per month:

This is your subscription fee that you will have to pay every month. It includes all of your Internet calls.

Are there any other "hidden" costs?

The only other thing to be aware of is that some broadband suppliers may charge you a delivery fee for the modem. You also need to be aware of what the minimum contract is when you sign up. Most suppliers only work on a minimum 12 months contract but as the market gets more competitive, some companies are offering 1 month minimum contracts.

How does broadband work?

Broadband has made our work simpler and better with its lightning speed and higher bandwidths. Various factors such as speed and convenience has made broadband one of the easiest ways of communicating with others. Majority of households in UK have been connected with broadband connection that is faster than dial up connection.

Both dial-up and broadband connections work in a similar way except that the volume of data transferred varies. This ultimately affects the speed of data transfer. Broadband connections transfer data much faster than dial up connections.

Broadband with higher frequency are capable of carrying more data at high speed and hence carry both data and voice at the same time. Microfilter, a device that splits voice and data coming from the same line is fitted in to the phone socket. Hence, there is no noise interference from the background on the phone line. There is a separate socket for the phone and hardware usually a modem to get you online. DSLAM (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer) installed in the telephone exchange receives data from the user through copper wires and converts it in to digital signals. DSLAM optimises the signal accordingly in case there is a storm etc,. Fibre optic cable network laid by BT is capable of handling enormous traffic and is managed by your ISP.

Broadband services are delivered not only through telephone lines but also via fibre optic cable lines provided by Virgin Media. It can deliver data at tremendous speed irrespective of distance between the exchange and premises.

But how does different types of broadband such as ADSL, cable, mobile and wireless broadband work? Let's look in to this in brief.

How ADSL broadband works?

ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line) is the most common type of broadband services available in the whole of UK. ADSL broadband has faster download speed and slower uploads speed. Download speed is usually three times faster than the upload speed. Telephone copper wires running from exchange to the premises carry both data and voice in digital form. On reaching the telephone socket, microfilter connected to the socket separates data from voice signals and thus user is able to make both telephonic calls as well as be online. User gets recoded information at his end. High speed modem helps you get connected to the internet. The internet connection is always on and hence user need not connect each time he needs to browse on the net.

ADSL signal is carried by two modems- one at home/ office and the other at the BT telephone exchange. One of the main advantages for using ADSL broadband is that a single line can be used for both high speed internet accesses as well as for voice communication unlike dial up connection that requires two separate lines for telephonic conversations as well as online activities. One major disadvantage of ADSL broadband is that the speed gradually decreases as the distance between the premises and the local telephone station increases. However, the introduction of ADSL2+ has increased the transfer speed to upto 24Mbps.

How cable broadband works?

Cable broadband uses cable TV connection for broadcasting television channels as well as for internet and telephonic purposes. But unfortunately only half of UK's population have adopted this broadband service. Cable broadband uses cables that are partially or fully made up of fibre optic materials. These cables can carry both text and voice data at the same time at greater speeds. Cable modem applies unused bandwidth to send data over cable television structure. The cable modem is attached to the coax cable which is further attached to a cabinet outside the premises. A LAN card is installed in order to work with your PC. Many cable modems come with network router along with the modem functionality. Hence, both the router and the cable modem come with separate MAC and IP addresses. Yet, the functionalities are kept separate.

As cable broadband requires cable connection, customers who require cable connection have to stay in an area that has cable connection. Hence, there is no need for a separate BT phone line. Cable broadband provides both digital TV services as well as telephonic connections.

Most of the cable connections in UK are provided by Virgin Media. Both ADSL and cable broadband allows you to be online for 24 hours a day. Performance of cable broadband does not depend upon the distance as in the case of ADSL broadband. Cable broadband has faster download speed and slower upload speed just like ADSL broadband.

How does mobile broadband work?

Mobile broadband with 3G technology work using a portable USB modem or dongle and a data card to get connected to the internet with the same signals as a mobile phone. These devices help in transferring data from the computer to the mobile base station. SIM card that is embedded or inserted in the device helps to access the mobile signals. The SIM card searches for the mobile signal and the computer begins to transmit data when the authentication process is successfully completed. Further, the computer becomes ready to transmit the data. The encrypted data in the form of mobile signals travels to the mobile base station from where it reaches the internet cloud. Every USB modem is provided with a unique IP address and hence provides more security for the users. Two main factors that affect the speed of data transfer are signal strength and mobile coverage.

Mobile broadband signals are capable of carrying both voice and data simultaneously. Mobile phone masts that are placed on several locations help in the transmission of data even on the move. Two important technologies that support mobile broadband connections are HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Access) and HSUPA (High Speed Upload Packet Access).

How does wireless broadband work?

Wireless broadband connection transfers signals through telephone lines and is further accessed by wireless router. Signals that reach your router from the ISP is converted in to radio signals and then broadcasted. The wireless network card in the devices picks up the signals and re-encodes it. It then allows accessing the broadband. Devices without wireless card can access broadband by connecting directly to the router with the help of a cable. Wireless here means that the network card and the router are wireless. Frequencies can be changed according to the mode of transmission, whether busy or slow.

Factors to consider before selecting a broadband

UK now has several broadband providers to its credit and this is the outcome of rapid growth and demand for broadband service to improve telecommunication. But when the process of selection of broadband comes in to place, it is not that easy until you have a better idea about its techniques. There lie several factors that make broadband provider so popular. However, few factors that must be considered before selecting one are discussed below.

Broadband plan

Every broadband provider quotes the maximum broadband speed on his plan but this speed is exactly not what you would get. It would be lesser than the speed quoted. In case you reach the monthly limit before the due date, then the broadband speed is capped by the provider until the end of the month. Hence, every one must be aware of these conditions before getting attracted to any plan that offers the highest.

Broadband speed

The speed at which you are accessible to ISP depends upon the plan you have taken and also the RAM capacity, operating system and system set up. The distance between the telephone exchange and premises and the websites you connect to also directly affect the speed of the broadband. The broadband speed tends to go slower during peak hours too. A bandwidth calculator helps to find the speed of the broadband.


Nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed said that price was the most important factor of consideration Proper decision making helps to make good value for the money spent and also to get the best out of the product (here, broadband). Price is also an important factor that helps in choosing a suitable broadband provider. One needs to know about the consequences as well before making any decisions on switching provider based on the price. It is inadvisable to select broadband based on price tags alone. Hence, price details must be checked before selecting any broadband provider.

Customer service

This is yet another important factor to be considered before selecting a broadband. However, factors depend upon individual's preferences. If one needs ultimate convenience, then customer service must be a factor of choice.


Reputation of a company also plays an important role in the selection of a suitable broadband service provider. If a service provider has a history of frequent interruptions and unsatisfactory customer service, then there is less chance for new customers to take up their service further. In general, most of the customers look in to the status of providers in the market before selecting a particular provider.

Ease of set-up

Another important factor that decides the selection of broadband service provider is on the basis of setup process. Customers look forward for easy methods so that they can by themselves install and perform the set up procedure in case of emergency.

Which broadband is better?

Pinpointing to the best broadband provider is difficult as each provider has their own way of service. Similarly customers too have their own preferences based on certain criteria. Broadband choice fully depends upon the availability of broadband providers in their area. Customers are hence forced to select one based on the availability despite their choice. If one is too concerned about the price, then he has no other option other than to select the cheapest deal. Contrarily, if one is concerned only about the speed and performance, then he can select the costliest one that gives the best service. Hence, it is utterly hard to name a better broadband provider from a lot.

OK, I know all about broadband now so where can I go to choose a broadband supplier in the UK?

We have Broadband Availability Checker tool exclusively designed for you to find for various broadband packages from different broadband providers. Here, you are merely required to enter the post code of your area and your phone number.