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What is ADSL and how does it work?

What is ADSL?

ADSL is a popular, older type of broadband, with the term standing for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. It is a broadband connection that works through the copper wires of existing phone lines and is mainly used for home broadband and within small businesses.

  • Runs through the BT phone line network
  • High-quality, reliable broadband connection
  • Permits faster data transmission through a single connection
  • Allows internet access at the same time as making phone calls
  • Minimal installation costs and maintenance

ADSL broadband is an extremely cost effective way to access the internet and is the most useful for startups and small businesses who have low reliance on the technology. Perhaps only one call needs to be made at a time and the business owner is often online at off-peak times.

For such businesses, ADSL is a fantastic entry level broadband that allows for easy budgeting; it won’t have a huge impact on finances and forecasts. With speeds of up to 24Mbps download and 8Mbps upload, it can be more than enough for your needs. When this is the case, it’s a wise business decision to not pay for more than you need and to reinvest the savings into your success.

Should your business still be using a dial-up modem, it is recommend to switch to broadband to benefit from fast internet access that’s always on, to help improve productivity. To access ADSL once it’s installed, you need an ethernet cable and router, which also enables a WiFi connection.

How does ADSL broadband work?

To set-up an ADSL broadband connection, an existing phone system is connected to the BT line through copper wires. During installation, a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) filter, or splitter, isolates frequency bands allowing a single line to be used for both telephone calls and ADSL broadband.

Due to how ADSL is accessed, performance is affected by distance from the PBX, or Private Branch Exchange. The closer premises are to the exchange, then the better the performance received as the connection benefits from a stronger signal. This is known as an asymmetric flow of data.

In the immediate vicinity of the exchange, users will get a high speeds (up to 24Mbps) and those towards the edge of the signal range will get lower rates of speed (down to 1Mbps). Estimated speeds can be checked before installing the connection.

ADSL is also not exclusive; it is known as a contended service where usage is shared between other businesses and home users in your area. It’s performance will slow down at peak times of usage.

What is ADSL2?

ADSL2 is an upgraded ADSL broadband connection. It uses the same wiring and PBX as the standard ADSL, but applies different software and protocols to achieve faster speeds.

  • Increased costs for increased speeds
  • Improved productivity as your business grows
  • Minimal installation costs and maintenance

Using an ADSL2 router, more than one PC or internet enabled device can be connected to the internet at any one time. In comparison to a standard ADSL connection, ADSL2 can achieve speeds three times faster, however real-time speed and performance is still subject to distance from the exchange (ideally you need to be within a 5km range).

This upgrade is ideal for small and growing businesses, especially when they are located near to an exchange. It is also better suited to tasks such as video conferencing, streaming, and downloading large media files than the standard ADSL.

You might also see ADSL2 referred to as ITU G.992.3. If you already have ADSL, upgrading to ADSL2 for faster, more reliable speeds may only involve purchasing a new router.

An alternative to ADSL would be fibre optic broadband, either FTTC or FTTP. These will be better options if you require superfast speeds for a large number of users, or use hosted telephony for your business communications.