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From slow to ultra-fast: how to choose between different internet connections

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Cloud network infrastructure

In an internet-connected world, knowing the different types of connections and understanding their features, benefits and drawbacks can be more than a little confusing.

But fear not, we’ve got a simple guide to help you get your knowledge right up to scratch!

Before we get started…

Connecting to the internet for the first time isn’t just as simple as plugging in a cable – you need to have a few fundamentals in place first.

Firstly, you’ll need an internet-ready device, which to be honest, these days is pretty much everything from desktop PCs to laptops, tablets and phones.

Secondly, you’ll need an Internet Service Provider (ISP) – this is a company with a bank of servers, who will have various packages and options available for you to choose from to connect to the internet.

Which connection is for you?

Back in the last century (well, perhaps just beyond the turn!) there was still Dial-Up internet – an external modem connected you to the internet via your phone line, but while you were connected, you couldn’t make or receive calls.

And internet download speeds were, frankly, desperately slow!

But thankfully things have moved on swiftly – skip forward about a decade and the following is likely to be on offer to you:

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL)

This is still a widespread internet connection in the UK, and is often referred to as ADSL Broadband due to the fact that it’s delivered across copper phone wires, but does not interrupt phone functionality.

Based on the BT telephone exchange network, this type of internet connection offers fairly stable, affordable internet to millions of homes, with maximum download speeds of 8 megabytes per second (mbps).

However, if you live far away from an exchange, the line speed can drop, and cables are susceptible to breakage.

Cable

Internet can be delivered via Cable TV lines, and since the coaxial cable offers greater bandwidth than standard DSL lines, cable is able to deliver speeds of up to 20mbps.

Very-High-Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL)

VDSL is, much like ADSL, reliant on a cable to transmit data – however, whereas ADSL uses copper lines and older technology, VDSL makes use of some Fibre cable components to deliver speeds up to 52mbps.

Fibre Broadband

Much as the name suggests, Fibre Broadband uses fibreoptic cables to deliver internet data to users.

Within the Fibre Broadband spectrum is:

Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) – this uses fibre cabling to the local exchange but a copper cable from there to the house or business

Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – a fibre cable is used to connect directly to the user’s premises without using any copper cable.

These cables don’t suffer from any deterioration over distance, and so can maintain far higher speeds of up to 100mbps.

Full Fibre Broadband

At the top end of the cabled internet solutions, in terms of speed, is Full Fibre – this is still being rolled out across the UK, with plans in motion to have the entire country connected only by Fibre by 2033.

This means that all the legacy copper cabling needs to be replaced – no small task, and one that will cost an extraordinary amount of money (some £33-billion!).

It does mean, however, that in the near future, all homes and businesses will be able to experience speeds in excess of 1 gigabit per second – it may even be able to deliver far faster than that!

Mobile Broadband (4G & 5G)

Our phones are also able to connect to the internet via satellite connectivity – these un-cabled connections are highly convenient, and most of us experience 4G connectivity on a daily basis.

And with 5G fast approaching, the exciting news is that this new mobile internet could reach speeds in excess of 20 gigabits per second!

5G will also offer wireless connectivity into homes, negating the need for cables – we may yet leapfrog the Full Fibre plan, and simply remove the cables altogether. Mobile signals can be a bit more temperamental, but stability has improved significantly in the last few years, and technological advancements are likely to keep these improvements coming.

To find out more about the right type of connectivity for your needs, contact one of our friendly staff on 01223 736 200 or ask@cambridgesupport.com