ASDL and Fibre Optics Explained

How Does BE Broadband Work?

Broadband is the term given to internet connections that are faster than dial-up connections.  There are a number of ways that you can get broadband and you should know about how they work.  Of course, not all providers offer all the different broadband connections.  BE broadband only offers one type of connection, but it is important that you understand what your other options are.

BE Broadband ADSL Connections

The most common broadband connection in the UK is the ADSL connection.  ADSL or asymmetric digital subscriber line uses the BT phone line system to bring internet signals to people.  The internet signal is carried down the copper wires that make up the telephone network.  As the phone line is still being used each ADSL line does have two separate channels on it; the first channel is for the broadband connection and the second is for the phone connection.

To separate the two channels you need a micro-filter.  The micro-filter will be attached to the master phone socket in your home when BE broadband is installed.  If you do not have a micro-filter then you may have slow broadband speeds and interference in the connection.  During installation your BE broadband technician will bring two micro-filter and one will be left with you.  If you have slow internet speeds you may want to consider swapping the filter to ensure that this is not the problem.

The ADSL signal travels into the house from the local phone exchange.  The distance to your local exchange is important because the copper wires of the phone system were not created with ADSL in mind.  The further away your exchange is the longer the cabling is and the more the signal degrades.  ADSL signals weaken when they have to travel over long distances so it is important that you find out where you local exchange is. 

Speeds on Offer

The top speeds offered by ADSL providers are around 28mb per second.  This is only available to consumers in the ADSL2+ network.  ADSL2+ is the next step in ADSL broadband and offers greater speeds and stability.  However, the upgrades to the phone network are not complete which means that not all consumers are able to get ADSL2+ connections.  The normal ADSL speeds can reach up to 18mb per second.

Of course, there are a number of factors that can reduce the broadband speeds you are getting with your ADSL connection.  Some providers cap the speeds a package can get so you may not be able to get the top speeds.  The modem or router you are using can also slow down your speeds if it is an old one and cannot handle the new, higher speeds.  The distance from the exchange is the main cause of slow ADSL broadband speeds.

It is very important that you find out what ADSL packages are available in your area before you sign up to anything.  To do this you should use a broadband postcode checker which details all the broadband connections you can get.  Many of these checkers will also tell you about the providers that operate in your area. 

Cable Broadband Connections

While BE broadband does not offer fibre optic cable connections there are many other providers that do.  The merger of BE with Sky will bring fibre optics to BE customers in the latter parts of 2013.  Many consumers wonder about the difference between cable broadband and fibre optic broadband.  The fact is that they are the same connection simply different terms.  Optical fibre is a big improvement on ADSL broadband in terms of speed and stability.

Fibre Optic Broadband

Fibre optic broadband uses fibre optic cables as the name suggests, to bring broadband into the home.  These cables are not linked to the phone lines and were created with the idea of data transfers in mind.  This means that they offer a faster and more stable means of transmitting broadband signal.  Unlike copper ADSL wires the speed  will not degrade with distance. 

Fibre Optic Cables

These cables are made of glass and plastic.  The data which transfers down them moves in pulses of light.  These pulses move at rapid speeds and are resistant to any interference which may affect ADSL cables.  These cables also allow the use of a single broadband connection by multiple people without the speeds decreasing. 

Fibre Optic Terms

While fibre optic broadband is a big step forward not all providers offer this because of the limited network range.  The network only reaches 60% of the population and not all of the connections are true fibre optics.  True connections are termed as FTTH while other fibre optic connections are FTTC.  FTTH stands for fibre to the home and has the broadband connection moving through fibre optic cables directly into the house.  FTTC stands for fibre to the cabinet which means that the cables reach the street cabinet.  The last mile of cabling from the cabinet to the house is ADSL cables.  This can slow down the speeds of the internet and decrease the stability of the connection. 

Types of Speeds Available

The fastest speeds that you can get in the UK with fibre optics are 100mb per second.  However, this is only offered by one provider and that is not BE broadband.  Most providers that have fibre optic broadband packages offer speeds of up to 78mb or up to 38mb per second.  Of course, you may not actually be getting these speeds for various reasons.  While distance degrading is more an issue with the capacity of your hardware.  Many wireless routers are unable to handle the high speeds of fibre optics and you need to verify what your router can cope with. 

How Can I Check if I Can Get Fibre Optics

As the network is still quite limited you have to use a postcode checker to see if you can get this connection.  40% of the country can’t and around 50% of the population cannot get FTTH connections.  The postcode checker may not be able to tell you the type of fibre connection you can get.  However, your potential broadband provider should list the type of connection their fibre optic packages use.