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Last Updated on 25 February 2019

Understanding the Types of Broadband Internet


Broadband internet is a blanket term used to describe the ways internet access is delivered to the premises. There are different types of broadband internet; some are faster but more expensive, while others are cheaper but slower.

Here’s your guide to the types of broadband internet, including their maximum theoretical speeds and what to look for when comparing plans.

Key Points
  • The types of broadband internet include fibre, cable, ADSL, and satellite. It may also include mobile broadband and wireless broadband.
  • Fibreoptic cables deliver the fastest speeds and satellite internet is typically the slowest.
  • The NBN is using a mix of fibre cables and existing technology to create a national high-speed broadband network that will theoretically replace ADSL.

What is Broadband Internet?

Broadband internet is a type of high-speed internet that is always connected, unlike the days of dial up when you had to actively request a connection. The term ‘broadband’ harkens back to radio days, and just means that the service is delivered using a broad band of frequencies.

The type of broadband internet you have depends primarily on your location and the communications infrastructure available there. In general, city-dwellers will have access to more advanced technology, while those in remote or rural areas may have to rely on satellites.

Types of Broadband Internet

There are four main types of broadband internet, and each has its pros and cons.

Fibre
The latest technology in broadband internet uses fibre optics to transmit signals. Data is converted to light and transmitted through glass fibres as thin as a strand of hair. This is the fastest type of broadband, especially when it is connected as FTTP—Fibre To The Premises.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) was originally planned as an FTTP connection for the majority of households, but due to cost and time concerns, only a limited number of premises have FTTP. Others rely on a mix of fibre and existing technology.

Cable
Cable broadband is actually referred to as Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) cable, and it’s the same cable you’d use to get something like Foxtel. HFC cable is a mix of fibre optic and coaxial cables, which are copper-based.

Cable is designed to transmit loads of data, and it does so reasonably quickly, but far fewer homes in Australia are equipped for cable broadband. As a result, only a handful of major providers offer cable broadband plans, including Telstra, Optus, and iinet.

ADSL
ADSL, or Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line, relies on copper telephone lines to bring broadband internet to your home. Voice telephone signals and internet data travel using the same line, but are separated using a DSL filter.

Because ADSL uses existing infrastructure, it is cheaper to use and maintain. However, it is slower than fibre and cable broadband. You’ll often see ADSL, ADSL2, and ADSL2+: these represent improving ADSL technology. ADSL2+ is currently the fastest ADSL option, but it is not available at all premises.

The NBN is intended to eventually replace all ADSL connections in Australia, though some of the copper wiring will still be in use.

Satellite
Satellite internet relies on broadband cables to deliver internet access, but the actual internet access is delivered via satellite signal. It uses the same technology as satellite television and phone services, and is typically used in remote or regional areas.

There must be a satellite dish on the premises in order to use satellite internet. This type of broadband is slower, more expensive, and less reliable than fixed-line broadband internet, but for many people it is the only option.

What About Mobile Broadband or Wireless Broadband?

The term ‘broadband internet’ can be confusing, because it is an umbrella term used to refer to so many things. Besides the four types of internet discussed above, you may have also heard of mobile broadband and wireless broadband.

These are both terms used to describe a wireless connection to a broadband network.

Mobile broadband
Mobile broadband is just that – internet on the go. It uses a portable device (usually a USB modem with a SIM card) to provide on-the-spot internet anywhere in the coverage network. Mobile broadband uses the same mobile network as mobile phones, so you can expect the same reliability and speed as you would when using a mobile phone for internet services.

Wireless broadband
Wireless broadband can sometimes refer to two different things. There’s home wireless, which is an at-home wireless broadband service that doesn’t rely on cables. You’ll get a broadband modem that uses a mobile network, plug it in, and off you go. Speeds are usually slower than mobile broadband, but data allowances are higher.

Wireless broadband is occasionally used to refer to in-home wifi. If you’ve got a wireless modem, you can use it to create a wifi hotspot at home, transmitting your fixed-line broadband signal throughout the house.

Broadband Internet Speeds

When we talk about broadband internet, there’s one question on everyone’s mind: How fast is my internet connection?

Internet download and upload speeds are measured in mbps, or megabits per second. You may also see the term MBps, or megabytes per second; this refers to file size and data. Eight megabits of data equals one megabyte.

If you download a 10 megabyte file in 10 seconds, you’ve got a download speed of 8mbps per second. Here’s how that works:

If you had a download speed of double that—16mbps—then you could download the same file in 5 seconds.

Broadband internet providers often advertise a ‘maximum theoretical speed,’ which indicates the highest speeds you could potentially reach. However, these speeds are often slower during busy periods or when multiple people in the household are using the internet.

Here’s a rundown of the different types of connections and their maximum theoretical speeds.

Comparing Broadband Internet

Broadband internet plans and prices vary across providers; they can also depend on your location. When comparing broadband internet plans, there are a few things to consider:

  • Broadband internet type: Which type of internet do you have access to?
  • Contract lengths:Some providers offer no lock in contracts, while others require a 24-month commitment
  • Promotional deals: If an introductory deal is offered, how long does it last? What is the price after it ends?
  • Data allowance:Can you use unlimited data or is there a monthly data cap?
  • Additional features: Does the provider offer discounts for bundling with other services like a phone plan? Do they offer extra features?

As you can see, there’s lots to look at when you’re comparing plans! Fortunately, you can use our powerful comparison tool to shop around for broadband internet plans without spending hours doing research.

It only takes a few minutes to find out what plans and prices are available in your area, so you can get a deal on the speed and data allowance you want.

Find the most competitive broadband plans in your area now:

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