Broadband guide

Broadband Connection Types Explained

Broadband Connection Types Explained

There is a wide range of broadband connection types available in Ireland including ADSL, cable, wireless, satellite and mobile. Choosing the right one can be challenging and confusing. All 5 types are explained below, along with their pros and cons.

What is ADSL?

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), is a type of broadband connection, that transmits data over the traditional copper telephone network. Because of this, ADSL is by far the most widely available and most popular internet connection available across Ireland.

And because it uses the traditional copper telephone network, most households will not need to install a second line, a cable or any other type of new wiring or device in the home.

It also means that you can avail of a service that includes a landline and broadband as a bundle if you wish.  Your provider will most likely supply you with a wireless router through which your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone can access the internet.

Developments in next generation ADSL technology mean that some services are capable of delivering reliable speeds of up to 24Mbps.

However, the speed of your service can be affected by how far away your home is from the telephone exchange. The further away, the slower the connection will be. In addition, the service can slow down at peak usage times, such as the evenings and weekends. That's because ADSL services work on shared connections.

You’ll sometimes see the phrase “contention ratio” in the small print for ADSL providers. This is industry jargon for sharing. If the contention ratio is 50:1, it means that at peak times you could be sharing your connection with as many as fifty people. And this will slow your connection down considerably. The lower the contention ratio, the better.

What is cable broadband?

Cable broadband is a way of delivering high-speed internet access through a cable TV connection. It is an always-on connection that comes in a wide range of speeds, depending on network access. Cable is the second most common way to access the internet in Ireland, after ADSL, but it is usually only available to those who live in urban areas.

Cable providers can also offer a package that includes cable TV, broadband and telephone in one bundle, all delivered through the same cable line. A wireless router is usually included and a phone can be attached to it if the customer needs it.

It’s rare to see cable services offering speeds of less than 50Mbps and, depending on where you live, you may be able to opt for a superfast fibre broadband service that can pipe in speeds of up to 360Mbps.

Cable also doesn’t suffer any slowdown in speeds during peak usage times because the is not shared with anyone else, unlike with ADSL and other connection types.

What is fixed wireless broadband?

Wireless broadband is an alternative to customers in areas where ADSL or cable is not available. A small transmitter in your local area broadcasts wireless signals that are picked up by a small antenna on your house, which channels the signal to a router or connection point inside the house.

One of the big advantages of fixed wireless broadband is that it offers a ‘symmetrical’ connection, which means that you can upload data at the same speed as you download. Most other services usually have a much slower upload than download speed.

Speeds are generally limited to 7Mbps, but some services can offer up to 10Mbps or even 30Mbps. Among the downsides are that coverage can be patchy and installation costs can be pricey.

Fixed wireless broadband is common in rural areas that are not well served by phone line and cable based broadband providers.

What is satellite broadband?

If you live in a part of the country with no cable, ADSL, fixed wireless or even mobile broadband service, but you need a reliable connection, satellite might be the answer.

By its very nature, it can provide a reliable connection to the internet no matter where you live and even if you don’t have a phone line. Just install a satellite dish and you can avail of broadband with download speeds of up to 20Mbps.

There are two disadvantages compared to other services, however. The first is that the quality of the connection is more likely to be affected by adverse weather conditions. The second is the cost of the installation, which is likely to be at least €200 for labour and equipment. Some satellite users also experience latency which is caused by the distance the signal has to travel. This can affect live gaming, and services like Skype.

What is mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband allows you to access the internet via the 3G or 4G networks operated by mobile operators, usually through a USB dongle or modem plugged into your PC, laptop or mobile device.

Up until recently, 3G services had been adequate for light-bandwidth usage, but with user demands becoming heavier and the fastest speeds on this network limited to 7Mbps, the technology is set to become outdated very soon.

But the good news is that 3G is beginning to be superseded by the next generation of services, known as 4G, which promises speeds of between 10Mbps and 40Mbps.


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