9 common broadband network questions answered
If you’re looking to purchase a broadband package, you may notice that not all retailers are available in your area. This is because retailers gain access to the internet through broadband networks, which carry broadband around the country through underground or overhead cables.
We know that when it comes to understanding broadband networks, you can easily be left scratching your head out of confusion. That’s why we’ve put together this article, which answers the most common broadband network-related questions.
1. Why isn’t every broadband network available to you?
The networks available to you will depend on where you live. This is because all high-speed networks rely on physical infrastructure to work, for example, fibre optic cables.
If fibre optic cables have not been installed in your area then you cannot get avail of high-speed bundles offered by certain retailers.
If there is a lack of mobile antennas and towers near where you live, then mobile broadband such as 5G may not be available to you.
While you may not have access to all broadband networks, you most likely have access to copper cable networks, such as open eir (legacy), as these are the traditional networks that run over your telephone line.
2. Can a retailer offer bundles on multiple networks?
Yes, it can.
In fact, this is quite common.
A retailer wants to sell as many broadband bundles to as many customers as possible. If it has its bundles across a large number of networks, then it has the best opportunity of selling one to a customer. For instance, the open eir (legacy) network offers the highest number of retailers to customers.
It is possible that your Eircode, i.e. your address, could have multiple networks available to it, with the same retailer being present on all these networks.
If this is the case, then the retailer will decide which network the customer is provisioned on.
As a customer, it doesn’t matter which network your broadband runs on as long as the speed and reliability of the connection are the same. For example, Vodafone can offer bundles on the open eir (legacy), open eir (fibre), SIRO and National Broadband Ireland networks.
3. Can you have more than one network connected to your house?
In theory, you can have multiple network cables physically connected to your home. Most homes will have the open eir (legacy) network available as this is the network that runs over the telephone lines.
As time has passed some homes may have had other networks such as SIRO or open eir (fibre) installed too. Therefore, you could have more than one network available at your home, with each network having competing retailers and bundle choices on them.
When switching from one broadband network to another, we advise you only to cancel your existing broadband connection after your new connection is fully up and running. This precaution will protect your home from losing connection during the switching process.
4. Which broadband network is the fastest?
Four broadband networks currently offer the fastest broadband in Ireland:
- Open eir (fibre)
- National Broadband Ireland
- Virgin Media
The first three use fibreglass (fibre optic) cables, while Virgin Media uses a DOCSIS 3 system with coaxial copper cables.
All four networks are capable of providing broadband speeds of up to 1,000Mbps (Megabits per second), with some offering speeds up to 2,000Mbps.
If you are wondering what this means in Gbps (Gigabits per second);
- 1,000Mbps = 1 Gbps
- 2,000Mbps = 2 Gbps
You can learn about what these speed measurements mean in our broadband terms explainer guide.
5. What determines the speed of your broadband?
While a network may be capable of providing super-fast speeds, the actual speed that you receive depends on numerous other factors, including:
- The age of your router: An old router may not have the hardware to handle modern speeds.
- Distance from the router: A Wi-Fi signal might struggle to reach your device.
- Congestion: Too many people using the network at once might slow things down, although this is only typically experienced with older networks.
- Time of day: Some times of day can be busier than others.
- Server issues: When using a website, it might be a problem on their side and not your network at all.
We have written a helpful guide that will show you how to increase your broadband speed here.
6. Why can your neighbour have pure fibre but you can’t?
There are a few reasons why you might not have access to fibre broadband:
- Lack of space in distribution cabinets: Broadband networks store their cables in local phone cabinets near your home. If the cabinet has not been sufficiently upgraded to meet local demand, you may need to wait until the cabinet has been updated before you can connect pure fibre to your home.
- Location: Your neighbour has the right to object to a network running its cables across their property in order to connect your house to a particular broadband network. Therefore, neither your house nor anyone else ‘downstream’ will be able to receive broadband from that network along this route.
If this happens, the network will typically calculate the cost of re-routing the cables, if there is sufficient downstream demand then the network may decide that it is economical to re-route its connection.
7. What can you do if you want high-speed broadband but you don’t have a fibre network in your area?
Unless a fibre network decides to install fibre cables in your local area, you will not be able to do anything to achieve a high-speed connection where you live.
However, if you live in a rural location, your area may qualify for fibre installation under the National Broadband Plan, delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI). NBI will only install fibre cables to locations that qualify for this Government initiative.
8. Can you contact a fibre broadband network to get fibre installed in your area?
A network provider will decide whether they are going to install fibre cables in your area. The network provider will only provide fibre cables to an area if there is a demand for the service.
If the previous owner of your house blocked a broadband network from installing cables to the home then you can request for the network to install the cables now.
Broadband retailers can then pay the network to provide fibre broadband to their customers in that area.
The National Broadband Ireland network, on the other hand, will install fibre cables if your area qualifies under the initiative, as noted in question 7.
To see if you have fibre broadband in your area, use the free bonkers.ie address checker.
9. What should you do if you’re switching provider?
If switching to a different provider, you should always contact your old provider to check that you’re out of contract. If you are still in contract, you’ll usually be required to pay a set fee or the remaining balance of the contract term before being able to switch.
If you are out of contract, you should:
- Inform your existing provider of your intention to leave. You usually have to give at least 30 days' notice that you're leaving.
- Return any equipment within 30 days of your contract being cancelled.
As mentioned in question 3, it’s a good idea to keep paying for your bundle with your existing provider if it operates on a different network until your new connection is up and running. This is because you may experience a drop in your broadband connection or delays.
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Discover more about broadband
Before you make the switch, check out some of our helpful guides to prepare:
- You can learn all about broadband networks in our explainer guide.
- Start your journey towards better broadband using our broadband Quickstart Guide.
- Check out the most common broadband-related questions we get asked here.
- When assessing your broadband options, don’t forget to consider these 7 factors.