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Broadband explained: everything you need to know

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Broadband is the technology that connects us to the internet and allows us to continue our day-to-day lives in the modern world. We work, play, and communicate online and broadband is the reason we are able to do this. But what is broadband and how exactly does it work? This guide has been compiled to explain the answers to these questions and more so that you can find out everything you need to know.

If you are looking for a guide on how to choose the best broadband provider, we recommend checking out this helpful resource.

What is broadband?

Broadband is a kind of bandwidth and it refers to the volume of data that can be transmitted. It came about in the early 2000s when internet service providers started splitting the connection on landlines between the internet and home phone. With multiple channels for data to pass through, a single cable could transmit different data at the same time. The term ‘broadband’ was coined to mean the opposite of narrowband, the technology of dial-up connections, which became less and less popular with this development. This is largely because it was so slow compared to today’s speeds with a maximum speed of 56kbps. Nowadays, we can achieve broadband speeds at a minimum of 11mbps which is 200 times faster than that, all the way up to 1gbps.

What are the different types of broadband?

Broadband has been developed to take many forms over the years and often when we use this term, we could be referring to a range of connections which we will list below.


The original broadband, an Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line is the most widely available and cheapest form of broadband. It uses copper cables to reach your home which is slow and unreliable, especially if you are far away from the nearest exchange cabinet.

Fibre broadband

Fibre broadband instead uses fibre optic cables which signals can travel through at extremely fast speeds, meaning you get high bandwidth even if you are far away from the nearest exchange. Most are Fibre to the Cabinet and these connections are shared between multiple households so can get slower with heavy use. But, full-fibre broadband bypasses this and connects directly to your home which is why it is often called “superfast” or “ultrafast”.

Mobile networks

These work via numerous mobile base stations which transmit signals via radio waves that are decoded by the SIM card in your phone to provide internet access. They are capable of fibre broadband speeds but are often used by many people at once making them unreliable. 5G is the fastest but has not been completely rolled out across the UK yet.

Less common types of broadband include 4G home broadband and satellite broadband.