What is broadband?
What is broadband?

What is broadband?

Broadband is a type of high-speed internet connection.

It is called broadband because it was introduced as the opposite of the ‘narrowband’ dial-up connections of the 1990s and early 2000s. Broadband is much faster than the old dial-up internet connections and has transformed internet access and usage.

How does broadband work?

Typically, you access broadband from a router in your premises. The wireless connection from your router to your computer is known as Wi-Fi.

The way your broadband provider delivers the broadband to your premises varies.

Traditional broadband uses copper telephone lines to transmit data. This is also known as ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line). While it provides faster speeds than dial-up internet, it is now being replaced by faster alternatives – such as fibre broadband.

Fibre broadband transmits data over fibre optic cables, which use light signals through thin glass fibres. You can get either full fibre or part fibre broadband.

Part fibre broadband uses fibre optic cables to transmit data to your local telephone exchange box. From there the data is transmitted over copper cables to your premises.

Full fibre broadband is even faster. It transmits your data over fibre optic cables all the way to your premises. Full fibre broadband offers lightning-fast speeds and is highly reliable.

You can also access broadband internet in a variety of other ways. The most common example is mobile broadband. This is the broadband connection that you can use on your phone via 4G or 5G signals.

How fast is broadband?

Broadband speeds vary globally. In the UK, the broadband speed you can access may depend on your location and the type of broadband which is available.

With traditional copper broadband, you can access speeds of up to around 30Mbps (megabits per second).

With full fibre broadband, you can enjoy speeds which may exceed 900Mbps. These speeds can support multiple users streaming and uploading content at the same time.  

What can I do with broadband internet?

A broadband connection provides you with everything you might want from the internet. For example: browsing the web, email, streaming content, working from home and education.

Faster broadband speeds mean faster downloads. These are the minimum speeds you will need to do specific activities:

  • Web browsing: 1 Mbps (download)
  • HD video streaming: 5 Mbps (download)
  • Ultra HD video streaming: 30 Mbps (download)
  • Voice over IP: 256Kbps (download and upload)
  • Video calling: 1 Mbps (download and upload)


With faster broadband speeds, you will be able to use the internet faster and more efficiently. You will also be able to do more things with your broadband at the same time. 

What do you need to use broadband?

To use broadband you’ll need a device that is capable of connecting to the internet. This could be a computer, tablet, smartphone, games console or any other device that can connect to the internet.

For most of these devices, you also need a piece of hardware which transmits broadband to your device. Typically, this will be a router in your home or office which you can connect to wirelessly. However, you could also use other devices, such as your phone, as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Other devices, such as smartphones, can connect to mobile broadband without the need for any extra hardware. These devices can use broadband anywhere, as long as they can get 4G or 5G signal.

How do you get broadband?

Broadband is available in most areas. However, full fibre broadband is not yet available across the UK. You will need to check what broadband speeds are available in your location.

You will also need to choose the type of broadband that suits your purposes. If you are buying broadband for a business, you will need business broadband. To check what business broadband is available at your premises, visit our broadband deals page  and enter your postcode.

Types of broadband connection

There are a number of different ways broadband is delivered to your premises.

  • Copper broadband. Also known as ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line). This type of broadband uses copper telephone wires to transmit data. It is now being phased out as part of the digital switchover as it will be replaced by fibre broadband, which is much faster and more reliable.
  • Part fibre broadband.  Also known as FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet). Fibre optic cables transmit data to your local exchange box. From there, the broadband is transmitted over copper wires to your premises. This gives you speeds of up to around 70Mbps.
  • Full fibre broadband. Also known as FTTP (Fibre to the Premises). Fibre optic cables connect straight to your premises. This can give you speeds of 900Mbps or more. While this is not yet available in all areas on the UK, the roll out of full fibre is spreading.
  • Leased line. A leased line gives you your own dedicated internet access. As cables are connected straight to your premises, you will not share your bandwidth anyone else and your speeds won’t slow down at peak times. This type of broadband is usually only appropriate for businesses.


There are also other types of broadband which don’t use cables.

  • Mobile broadband. Devices such as smartphones can connect to 4G or 5G signals.
  • Satellite broadband. It is also possible to get broadband beamed to your premises by satellite.