All about ADSL broadband
In this guide
- ADSL broadband at home
- What you can and can't do with ADSL
- Providers of ADSL
- Frequently asked questions
Want to save money on your broadband? If you're not a big internet user, ADSL could be the right choice.
ADSL broadband at home
With all the hype around faster broadband, you might think you have to have fibre in order to get decent broadband. ADSL, or standard broadband, may not be as fast as fibre, but it works incredibly well for some households and is widely available.
If you’re a light user and don’t have many devices connected to your broadband, you might find ADSL is the better option. Generally speaking, you should allow 10Mbps for every person in your household who uses the internet separately. So if you normally watch Netflix or iPlayer together you shouldn’t have any issues. For more help figuring out what broadband speed you need, read our guide.
What you can and can't do with ADSL
Although 10-11Mbps may sound very slow in comparison with other speeds, in fact, ADSL can handle most daily internet use.
What you can do with ADSL broadband
- Browse the internet — A standard 10-11Mbps connection will have no problem with web browsers. ADSL can comfortably handle social media, online shopping, and other basic use. You'll also be able to send and receive emails, take care of online banking and other necessities.
- Steam TV, movies and music — You’ll need at least 1.5 - 5Mbps for streaming on Netflix and BBC iPlayer, and even less to listen to Spotify or Apple Music. As long as you’re watching on one device at a time and you don’t watch Ultra HD content you shouldn’t have any issues.
- Play multiplayer games — Playing online games puts more of a strain on your upload speed than your download speed. This means you should be able to play a number of fast-paced games as long as your upload speed is at least 1Mbps.
- Download apps and other programmes — Admittedly, if you're downloading games, it will be a slow process. Nowadays the average video game is around 50GB, which could take as long as 12 hours to download. Fortunately not all games are that large and smaller files shouldn’t take as long.
- Connect 4 - 6 devices — As a rule of thumb, the more devices connected, the slower the internet. You may want more than just your computer connected to broadband. Phones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs, and games consoles all fall under this umbrella. An 11Mbps connection will support more than one person as long as you’re not all streaming Netflix on different devices at the same time.
- Work from home — Sending and receiving emails, downloading word docs, working in the cloud, and making Skype or Zoom calls will be fine with standard broadband.
What you can't do with ADSL broadband
- Watch videos in 4K Ultra HD — Netflix and Amazon Prime both recommend a connection of at least 25Mbps if you want the best HD graphics. That's just not possible with an ADSL connection.
- Watch more than two streams at once — Two streams may be manageable, though you can expect occasional pauses for buffering. Any more than that, and things will slow right down.
- Download large files quickly — This is particularly relevant for people who download a lot of games or upgrades. That 53GB game we mentioned earlier would take 12 minutes with Virgin Media's 516Mbps service.
- Connect a large number of devices — If there are several of you at home, then things start to get sticky. That's particularly true if you have data-hungry hobbies like streaming, downloading, and gaming.
- Run a business — If you want to have multiple computers, running programmes like Skype or Zoom and doing a lot of web-based work, then ADSL may not be enough. To avoid unnecessary downtime, you'll probably want to upgrade.
Providers of ADSL broadband
Most providers offer ADSL, often as a no-frills budget alternative to fibre broadband. Vodafone and Virgin Media are the two biggest providers with no ADSL options. A few others like Hyperoptic, which prides itself on its high speeds, don't either. However, you'll still find plenty of choice.
All of these providers offer similar ADSL speeds of 10-11 Mbps.
- BT: One of the UK’s largest providers, keep a look out for their package deals which could include BT Sport or weekend calls.
- Direct Save Telecom: They offer no credit checks and a budget-friendly service with no upfront costs.
- EE Broadband: With EE you’ll find mid-priced unlimited broadband deals.
- Shell Energy Broadband: You can get exclusive rewards with Shell Energy Broadband deals, along with no upfront costs.
- John Lewis Broadband: It may not be the cheapest, but you can expect excellent customer service from the high street brand.
- NOW Broadband: This budget broadband provider is widely available don’t do credit checks.
- Plusnet: Known for their outstanding customer service, Plusnet’s standard broadband averages 11Mbps.
- Sky; One of the most recognised providers in the UK, Sky aren’t the cheapest provider so when you see a good deal you should have a look.
- TalkTalk: They offer some of the best prices for their ADSL broadband with average speeds of 11Mbps.
Although speeds don't vary, prices do. Use our postcode checker to see which deals are available in your area and find the cheapest ADSL broadband.
Frequently asked questions
What is ADSL broadband?
ADSL uses the copper wires in the phone lines to deliver broadband into your home. It’s has speeds between 10 – 11Mbps, making it slower than fibre broadband. ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. The term asymmetrical is used because the download speed is much faster than the upload speed.
Is ADSL cheaper than fibre broadband?
Not necessarily. ADSL is more widely available than fibre, but it doesn’t mean it will be less expensive. Use our postcode checker to see what’s available in your area and then filter the deals by the cheapest to find a deal that suits your budget. You might find you can get fibre broadband for less than you think.
Do I need fibre broadband, or is ADSL enough for me?
It depends on your lifestyle. In general, if you are a light internet user with a small household, ADSL might be fine. If you live with several others and you’re all on the internet at the same time you will probably struggle. Our comprehensive guide to broadband speed will help you decide if standard broadband is right for you.