About standard ADSL broadband deals
By Dan Howdle | Saturday, February 3rd 2018
In this guide
- What is standard ADSL broadband?
- Types of broadband
- What you can and can't do with ADSL
- Which providers offer ADSL broadband?
- Frequently asked questions
Though most of us can get faster fibre broadband these days, ADSL or 'standard' broadband, which comes entirely through a copper phone wire (rather than a fibre optic one) is still available to pretty much everyone. And it's cheap too.
But is the 10-11Mbps average speed it delivers fast enough for today's households. If you choose ADSL, will you still be able to do the things you need to do online, or will it simply be too slow? Will any money you might save prove a false economy? We will answer this question and more in this thorough guide to ADSL standard broadband.
What is standard ADSL broadband?
There are several types of broadband. The two you will hear about the most often are ADSL and fibre optic. These two types serve the vast majority of UK households.
Fibre optic broadband describes a connection where the cables used are for the most part fibre optic (cables with a stretched-glass core). ADSL or 'standard broadband' offers a connection where the cables are copper-cored. Fibre optic cables allow for data transfer speeds that are much faster than copper cables. This is why the speeds you see listed for standard ADSL broadband will always be considerably slower than those listed for fibre.
How ADSL compares to other types of broadband
ADSL standard broadband and fibre broadband are by no means the only way you can connect to the internet. There are in fact several different ways to do this, as anyone with a mobile phone will be able to tell you. Here we're going to take a look at the different types of broadband, looking at their strengths and weaknesses when compared to ADSL.
- ADSL or 'standard' broadband – What this page is about. It is, sadly, the slowest of all the types listed here. For what you can and can't do with the speeds ADSL offers, take a look at the next section, which breaks it down in detail. Typically, providers offer ADSL broadband as speeds that average 10-11Mbps
- Fibre broadband – Typically this is broadband where the cables are fibre optic as far as the cabinet and then copper from the cabinet to your house. The shorter run of copper compared to ADSL means this type of fibre broadband runs a lot faster. Speeds available average around 35Mbps up to around 65Mbps
- Cable broadband – Is broadband that uses the old cable TV infrastructure to deliver your broadband. This is all owned by Virgin Media these days, so you can only get cable broadband there. TV cables are much better at delivering a broadband signal than typical fibre broadband is, as described above. This is why Virgin Media's current top speeds exceed a staggering 500Mbps
- Mobile broadband – This is broadband delivered over your mobile phone network. You can get special devices and dongles that will then distribute the signal to your other devices by wifi or cable. Right now, 4G mobile broadband is faster than ADSL, but most deals have strict limits on downloads
- Satellite broadband – Is the last resort for people who live somewhere extremely remote and cannot get decent broadband any other way. It's expensive, capped, and there is a lot of latency (delay) thanks to the signal having to bounce off of a satellite
- FTTP or 'gigabit' broadband – Stands for 'fibre to the premises'. It is very hard to get, with less than 2% of households where it's available. If you can get it, though, from companies such as Hyperoptic, Vodafone or BT, you will be able to get the fastest broadband there is, up to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps)
What you can and can't do with ADSL
11Mb is fast enough for:
- Browsing the internet
- Streaming TV, movies and music
- Netflix, iPlayer, Spotify
- Connecting 4-6 devices
11Mb will struggle with:
- Streaming 4K/UHD content
- Downloading large files quickly
- Connecting a large number of devices
- Watching multiple streams
What you can do with standard ADSL broadband
- Browse the internet – A standard broadband connection of around 11Mbps is more than enough to browse the internet, with webpages opening almost instantly. Online shopping will be seamless and social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, will display smoothly. Some webpages, particularly those with audio and video features, will demand more from your connection than others, but 11Mbps is more than enough to cope
- Send emails and receive emails (with attachments) – You can quite happily send an email with reasonably sized attachments with 11Mbps. Most email clients have limits on how large a file you can attach so that may act as a stopping point, but they will stop you before your broadband connection does
- Bank and pay your bills online – Online banking sites don’t require a huge amount of download oomph, so you’ll be able to manage your direct debits, ISAs and credit cards without interruption. 11Mbps is enough to browse, so, by extension, it’s also enough to head on over to the website of your favourite utilities provider and hand over a chunk of your monthly wage
- Stream TV, movies and music – From Netflix to the BBC iPlayer, Spotify to Pandora, streaming content can be done with 11Mbps. Using streaming services to watch TV or movies and listen to music is one of the most data-intensive activities you can do on an internet connection. To compensate for different connections, each service has recommended speeds for viewing or listening at specific quality
- Netflix – You can stream anything up to HD quality with a 11Mb connection. Netflix recommends a 5Mbps connection for this
- BBC iPlayer – A 11Mbps connection can comfortably stream BBC iPlayer. It streams at two speeds, 1.5Mbps for standard and 2.8Mbps for high.
- Now TV – You can stream Now TV with a 11Mbps connection. Now TV recommends you have at least a 2.5Mbps broadband connection to watch its content
- Amazon Prime Instant Video – A 11Mbps connection is more than enough to stream content from Amazon Prime Instant Video. Amazon suggests a speed of 900Kbps for standard definition and 3.5Mbps for high definition
- Spotify – You can quite easily listen to Spotify on the highest possible setting with a 11Mbps connection. Spotify says 320Kbps is enough for the high-quality audio option
- Pandora – Similarly to Spotify, Pandora suggest a speed of 300Kbps to listen to its service in the highest possible audio quality. Easily achievable with a 11Mbps connection
- Play multiplayer games (including shooters) – Playing games online puts more of a strain on your upload speed than your download speed. Check with your provider, but most 11Mbps broadband connections come with a 1Mbps upload speed, which should be enough for fast-paced online games like FIFA or Call of Duty
- Download new games and apps for phones and tablets – Downloading new games directly to your console is where your download speed comes in to play. You can download these games regardless of how fast your connection speed is, but the faster the connection, the sooner the game will download. The average file size for a videogame is around 40GB, and getting bigger all the time. With a 11Mbps connection you should be able to download a game in around five and a half hours
- Connect 4-6 devices without problems – The more devices connected to the internet the slower your connection will generally become; this can include phones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs and games consoles. A 11Mbps connection will support more than one person, but this depends on what they are doing. Four people simultaneously checking their Twitter accounts will be fine, whereas four people all watching Netflix in HD at the same time will not
- Work from home – Working from home usually involves working online, downloading and sending files over email and using VoIP services like Skype. You’ll be able to do all of this on a 11Mbps connection
- Use cloud computing services – Sharing files between your home office and your clients can be made easier with cloud computing services, like iCloud, Google Drive and Dropbox. These services use your upload speed as well as your download so, while you can use them with a 11Mbps connection, you will find downloading files will happen sooner than uploading them
- Use VoIP services – Using VoIP will use your upload speed as well as your download speed. A 11Mbps connection usually comes with a 1Mbps connection, which is more than enough to make group video calls with Skype, which requires an 8Mbps download speed and a 512Kbps upload speed
The point at which you'll need fibre broadband
- Watch video in 4K Ultra HD – A standard broadband connection will not let you stream in Ultra HD. Netflix and Amazon Prime recommend at least 25Mbps if you want to use this setting. Ultra HD requires a 4K TV, which is the next step up from HD TV, and Netflix will only let you stream in the setting if your TV, Netflix account and internet connection all support it
- Watch more than two streams at once – You should be just about able to support two HD Netflix streams at the same time, with a small amount of buffering (where the picture pauses to wait for the stream to catch up). Watching any more at the same time and you might have to watch in standard definition
- Download large files quickly – While a 11Mbps can still download large files, like videogames or movies, you’ll have more of a wait on your hands than if you went with something faster. As we’ve already seen, a 40GB videogame will take around five and half hours on a 11Mbps connection. That same game would take 10 minutes if you used Virgin Media’s 350Mbps fibre connection
- Connect a large number of devices – This is really where a 11Mbps connection might fall down. The more phones, tablets, game consoles and laptops that share the connection at the same time, the slower the connection becomes for everyone. A 11Mbps connection, while it’ll happily cope with many folk browsing the internet at the same time, it won't take a lot of video streamers. Two is, in fact, all you'll be able to reliably count on
- Run a business – It’s all very well working from home with a 11Mbps connection, but running an entire business is a slightly different kettle of fish. Of course, it depends on what your business does. A small bed-and-breakfast with only one computer will probably be OK, but a medium-sized, web-based publishing house is going to struggle
Which providers offer ADSL broadband?
Not everyone offers ADSL broadband, but most providers do. Notable exceptions are Virgin Media, Vodafone and Hyperoptic, all of whom only offer fibre. Vodafone by its own choice, Virgin Media and Hyperoptic because they operate their own fibre networks. Here are the providers that do.
- BT – Offers standard ADSL broadband deals with speeds averaging 10Mbps
- Direct Save Telecom – Offers budget-focused, no-frills standard ADSL broadband deals with no credit checks and with speeds averaging 11Mbps
- EE Broadband – Offers mid-priced ADSL broadband deals with average speeds of 10Mbps
- Shell Energy Broadband – Offers budget standard ADLS broadband deals with speeds averaging 11Mbps
- John Lewis Broadband – Offers mid-priced ADSL broadband deals with speeds averaging 11Mbps
- NOW Broadband – Offers ADSL broadband deals with average speeds of 11Mbps. Like Direct Save Telecom, NOW Broadband does not do credit checks
- Plusnet – Owned by BT and with a fantastic customer service reputation, Plusnet offers ADSL broadband deals with average speeds of 10Mbps
- Post Office Broadband – Is aimed towards the older user. It offers ADSL broadband deals at speeds averaging 11Mbps
- Sky – Tends to reside at the more expensive/premium end, and offers ADSL broadband deals at speeds averaging 11Mbps
- SSE – Offers budget ADSL broadband deals with speeds averaging 11Mbps
- TalkTalk – Offers very cheap ADSL broadband with speeds averaging 11Mbps
Frequently asked questions
What broadband speed do I need?
Generally speaking you should allow 10Mbps for every person in your household who uses the internet separately. If you all use it together – watching Netflix, for example – you can make do with less. If there are gamers or people in the household with a 4K TV, you should double their allowance to 20Mbps to reach your final number.
What is the average speed of broadband in the UK?
The average broadband speed of UK households is 16.51Mbps. Bear in mind, though, that most people do not subscribe to the fastest broadband available to them. Broadband speeds in widely available broadband packages currently range from 10Mbps to 516Mbps.
Is fibre broadband available in my area?
Almost certainly. Fibre broadband is now available to 97% of UK households. It is unlikely you cannot get it.
What contract length should I go for?
Depending on which provider you choose, you will have no choice in the matter. Almost no broadband providers will allow you to choose the contract length. You will have to take whatever is offered with your chosen provider. Broadband contracts vary from 30-day rolling contracts up to two years.
Do I have to pay more to have a phone line?
No. When you take out a broadband package the service arrives via a physical cable, usually your phone line. You will pay line rental on this 'line' regardless of whether you have a phone attached to it. If you want to add a calling package such as free evening and weekend calls, you will of course have to pay more.
Who is the cheapest broadband provider in UK?
It changes from day to day. For the cheapest right now head to the top of this page where you'll find all the latest deals listed in price order.
What is the cheapest broadband only deal?
Broadband only deals don't really exist. Not in the sense most people mean: Without a phone line or line rental. The best you can do is a Virgin Media deal, which is the only provider that won't compel you to have a landline, but even then you will still be paying line rental.
What is the best broadband deal?
Define best. Do you mean cheapest? Fastest? The deal with the best cashback and offers? Use the links in that previous sentence to see bespoke lists for each of these types of 'best' deal.
Want to learn more about broadband?
Our broadband guides contain a wealth of information on just about every aspect of current broadband packages.