ADSL - An In Depth Understanding

It’s important to understand the nature of broadband services when you are looking to choose a provider. Indeed, the ADSL network is run by BT. To understand how the relationship works, let’s look at ADSL in a bit more detail.

ADSL and the broadband industry

The ADSL technology is run over the copper cables that make up the infrastructure for our telephone lines. That is why the router is always connected to our telephone socket. The cables were laid by BT and the telephone exchanges were also built by BT. Therefore, the infrastructure is all BT’s. Other providers rent the service from BT so for example, the Post Office Home Phone Broadband service is a service that is rented from the British Telecom giant.

Whenever you have an issue with your line, you will need to have a problem escalated to BT Openreach.

Who are BT Openreach?

BT Openreach is a service that is part of BT that looks after the infrastructure of the ADSL broadband. They are also the ones that manage the relationships with providers.

Problems with escalation

Some providers such as Tesco Broadband and Post Office Home Phone Broadband have had issues in the past with getting complaints escalated to where they should be. If the problem is with the line or the exchange, and the provider is unable to intervene, they will have to communicate with BT Openreach in order to get the problems investigated.

If the escalation doesn’t happen or if they do not give a good reason to BT, then the issues can remain for weeks, and even months.

Talking to your provider

When you’re talking to your provider about faults, it’s important that you are polite but persuasive. You need to proactively encourage them to get issues raised with Openreach; this is especially true of Tesco Broadband and Post Office Home Phone Broadband. Otherwise you may end up very frustrated not getting anything done and with issues remaining on your line and your broadband performance being under par.

What about fibre optic broadband?

BT is one of the two main providers running fibre optic broadband around the country, the other being Virgin Broadband. BT has laid their cables to around 50% of the country and are planning to hit 65 – 66% in total by the end of 2013.

Their cables work on a similar basis as the BT landline infrastructure. Providers are able to rent bandwidth and therefore provide a service that is totally branded for them. That is how companies such as Post Office Home Phone Broadband, Tesco Broadband, PlusNet Broadband, Sky Broadband and all the others are able to offer fibre optic broadband.

Sky currently offers their connections to around 30% of the country. The percentages are going to increase and the competition and competitiveness in the fibre optic broadband industry will increase as BT and Virgin roll out their services.

Speeds on fibre optic broadband

The speeds on consumer-based fibre optic broadband tend to be up to around 120MB per second. Customers have to pay more for faster speeds but in general, it is worth it.

Types of fibre optic broadband

There are two main types of fibre optic broadband:

  • fibre to the home
  • fibre to the cabinet

Fibre to the home

With fibre to the home, the cables that are made of fibre optic materials go all the way into the consumer’s home. This is a superfast technology as no portion of the journey of the internet pulses need to be made over copper or aluminium.

Fibre to the cabinet

Fibre to the cabinet is a bit different in that the fibre optic cables run only from the exchange to the street level cabinet. The street level cabinet is probably a few hundred metres from you and the final leg of the journey is done through the copper cables of the BT network.Normally you need an active phone line to get your broadband set up from the cabinet, but often you may well be able to disconnect afterwards, saving yourself some money.

Data allowances, fair usage policy and traffic management

Because the infrastructure is rented by different providers, often you will get a slightly inferior deal than you would through BT. This is a natural thing to happen because obviously these providers have to pay for the services and may well have limited resources. This is why some of the smaller internet service providers do traffic manage a great deal.

What are fair usage policies?

Fair usage policies are designed to ensure that the majority of consumers on a line are able to achieve very reasonable internet connectivity speeds. It’s also there to improve stability. Essentially, fair usage policies dictate the amount of data you can actually consume in a month. Even unlimited policies often have a fair usage cap connected to them and if you go above this level, your connection could be slowed down or even cut. It’s therefore important to understand the different providers in detail in order to get the best deals.

Traffic management policies

Traffic management policies are similar to fair usage policies but they relate to the slowing of certain activities at certain times of the day in order to ensure stability. All providers outside of BT Broadband, Sky Broadband and BE Broadband seem to have some sort of fair usage policy and traffic management policy that can impede the experience of the user.

Post Office Home Phone Broadband, Tesco Broadband and the other new entrants

There are a number of new entrants to the broadband market and these companies are often a little bit limited in their provision of services. Indeed, if you look at Tesco they really only have one package that they sell and it’s simply put together with other telephone offerings. You should make sure that with these smaller or newer providers, you really do read the small print and ensure you understand the package that you are going to get with all the limitations and special stipulations contained within.

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