Four main technologies allow for home internet access. Behind ADSL, perhaps the most popular, optic fibres, cable, and even satellite have their assets. That’s not mentioning radio technologies, which could be of interest in some cases. Here is a breakdown of the main connection solutions.
ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) belongs to a family of xDSL technologies which rely on the traditional phone network. It presents two major disadvantages. For one, it is asymmetrical, which means ascending debits (from the subscriber to the network) are inferior to descending debits (from the network to the subscriber). In other words, it takes more time to send a file than to receive one. The other inconvenience is the debit, capped around 25 Mb/s. This could be a problem if you live far from the telephone exchange, but in most cities will be sufficient if you make moderate use of your broadband.
Through this glass or plastic wire, thinner than a single hair, transit huge quantities of information in record times. The result: optic fibre allows for far superior debits compared to ADSL. Some providers promise 200 Mb/s or more with good coverage (though in can be “in theory”). With those capacities, downloading a music file only requires a few seconds, and a film would take no more than three minutes. Sending photos and receiving emails with attachments is almost instantaneous. The fibre also allows for High Def (or even UHD) television reception, even on several devices at a time. Another benefit: the debit is symmetrical, which means ascending debit is just as high as descending debit, and the ping (response time) is very short. A detail which can interest online gamers for example.
Now, optic fibres do usually cost a bit more than regular broadband offers (ADSL) and can require some works in the home. But some providers offer very attractive bundles comprising a fibre optic connection, TV service and landline for only around £40 a month (even less without the TV). Check out the prices you can get with this EE Voucher if you are tempted by a fibre optic connection (you can also get a good deal on regular broadband if you prefer). To benefit from optic fibre, you need to reside in an area served by a provider (and if you live in the building, the optic fibre will have had to be deployed in common areas – though you can still subscribe to the provider of your choice even if it hasn’t).
Originally destined to offer an alternative to terrestrial television, the good ol’ coaxial cable is still relevant. It even constitutes and interesting alternative to ADSL to benefit from a triple bundle at home – a high-debit internet, high res TV channels and a landline. Its performances are definitely better than those for ADSL, but still under optic fibres. Moreover, to benefit from a cable connection, you will need to reside in a covered area, which usually means medium to large cities. Like the fibre, the cable could require a few works in the home (usually not much more than small holes in the wall – which is done by some providers for free or a small charge).
Good ol’ satellite. Available everywhere, satellite connections are aimed at residents in areas not even served by ADSL. These offers are usually expensive and offer limited access to internet. Landline calls are not always included, and TV reception usually comes for a supplemental charge. Finally, a rooftop satellite dish is necessary, and costs usually come with installation. To be fair, if you made it to this site you probably don’t need a satellite connection.
3G, Wi-Fi and other « radio » techs
A few technologies use waves to diffuse a wireless internet flow. Thanks to 4G for example, you can, in theory, benefit from similar debits to those of the optic fibre. However, you have to share the bandwidth with other users, and coverage and costs mean it may not be the best solution for home use. But 4G (or 3G) is perfectly adapted to use on the move, with your mobile, tablet or laptop (you may need a special USB key).
Wifi is mainly used in homes to share the connection among several devices and users. Convenient, it does generate debit loss and has to be secure. It is also used, free or with a charge, in more an more public spaces (airports, cafés, train stations, shops and even parks).
A last alternative technology to diffuse internet wirelessly: Wimax, which diffuses high debit on a few kilometres around. Wimax is seldom used.
PLC (Power Line Communication)
This technology allows for transportation of data through an electric network. It is notably used to distribute internet in all the rooms in a house or flat. PLC allows to transmit data through a wire (less loss than wifi), securely and without works, as the electrical network already exists. All you have to do is connect PLC modules on electric sockets and connect a computer. PLC is also used to connect entire buildings (schools, hospitals etc.)