Broadband networks explained
In this guide, we explain what a broadband network is, and how it is different to a broadband retailer.
We know that when it comes to researching broadband, people are often familiar with terms such as Wi-Fi or bandwidth. However, understanding where your broadband connection actually comes from can be a bit more complicated.
In this guide, we explain what a broadband network is, and how it enables you to access the internet through different retailers.
What is a broadband network?
A broadband network provides high-speed data transmission around Ireland through copper, fibre, or coaxial cables.
Broadband networks will install cables into your home on behalf of the retailer, in a similar way to how gas and electricity work.
What’s the difference between a broadband network, internet, and Wi-Fi?
While often used interchangeably, internet, broadband, and Wi-Fi are actually all different things. So what exactly do these broadband terms mean?
The internet is the biggest worldwide network of communication between computers. Words, videos, and images can be sent from one device to another in an instant.
As explained above, a broadband network carries broadband around the country through underground or overhead cables.
You will experience your broadband connection through your Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi connects to your access point, your access point connects you to your router, and your router connects you to the internet.
You can learn more about the different broadband terms here.
What’s the difference between a broadband network and a broadband retailer?
Retailers get internet access from a broadband network. Retailers then sell this internet access to their customers.
Through the various plans and packages they sell to customers, retailers allow customers to gain access to broadband from one of the six broadband networks in Ireland.
In contrast, a broadband network, such as SIRO, does not sell broadband plans or packages to consumers, nor does it give them direct access to the broadband supplied by their network.
Instead, consumers must buy their broadband package from a retailer on the SIRO network to access the internet.
How many broadband networks are there?
In Ireland, there are 6 main broadband networks in total. Each uses different broadband connection types. These are:
1. Open eir (legacy): This network operates on an old phone system and uses copper wires to transfer the internet from the nearest roadside cabinet to your home. It has a maximum speed of 100Mbps (Megabits per second). This type of connection is known as fibre to the cabinet (FTTC).
Providers on this network include Eir, Vodafone, Pure Telecom, Sky, and Digiweb.
2. Open eir (fibre): This network connection is called fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). Fibre broadband is connected directly to a customer's home. This can provide speeds of up to 1,000Mbps, which is equal to 1Gbps (Gigabits per second).
With this type of connection, you can download a whole movie in 2 minutes and a high-definition TV episode in 8 seconds.
Providers on this network include Eir, Vodafone, Pure Telecom, and Sky.
SIRO can achieve speeds of 2GB, with plans to increase this to 10GB in the future.
Providers on this network include Vodafone, Pure Telecom, Sky, Digiweb and Virgin Media.
In May 2023, Virgin Media joined the SIRO network, offering their packages across the SIRO network as well as their own.
4. Virgin Media Network: This is a part-fibre network because the cables directly connected to the customer's home are not full-fibre. This network uses a DOCSIS 3 system, which can provide broadband speeds of up to 1,000Mbps.
In 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) determined that unless a broadband connection is delivered through a fibre optic cable to your home (FTTH), it cannot technically be called full-fibre.
For this reason, Virgin Media’s services have to be advertised as being ‘part-fibre’. This is so that customers are not misled about services.
5. Mobile: 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G broadband use a mobile phone connection sent by phone towers.
Providers include Eir and Vodafone.
6. The National Broadband Plan: This is a Government initiative created to distribute pure fibre broadband to rural Ireland in places where existing broadband networks have not created infrastructure.
All providers have access to this network as it is a Government initiative for the benefit of rural populations.
The main providers include:
- Pure Telecom
- IFA Telecom
Microwave wireless and satellite are other networks, but they’re largely gone.
The most commonly used networks in Ireland are currently open eir (legacy), open eir (fibre), SIRO, and Virgin Media.
How can the broadband availability checker show you what networks are available to you?
Our broadband comparison tool is the only one of its kind in the country, as it tells you what networks are available at your home, by checking our database against your Eircode.
All of the networks give us updates when they roll out their availability, so we are kept up-to-date on which network is available in your home at any given time.
For example, when you run a comparison on bonkers.ie we ask you for your Eircode so we can figure out which networks are available to you.
We only show you the broadband retailers and their bundles available to your home, so you can’t order a package that you can’t get.
Compare broadband easily with bonkers.ie
Looking to switch broadband providers? Well, look no further than bonkers.ie!
Learn more about broadband
Before you switch, check out some of our helpful guides to prepare:
- Start your journey towards saving money with our broadband Quickstart Guide.
- Check out the most common broadband-related questions here.
- Learn how to switch broadband providers with our step-by-step guide.
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