From fastest to slowest, the following list summarises the 8 different types of internet connection available to homes and businesses in the UK:
- Leased line (dedicated internet connection with guaranteed, un-contended speeds): Our Recommended Provider
- Virgin fibre-optic: Visit
- Wireless leased line (line-of-sight / point-to-point from a local transmitter): Our Recommended Provider
- VDSL (superfast broadband) delivered via your phone line: Find A Provider
- 3G / 4G / 5G mobile data networks: Try Three
- Satellite broadband: Visit BigBlu
- Bonded ADSL (traditional broadband) delivered multiple telephone lines and joined together: Our Recommended Provider
- Single ADSL (traditional broadband) delivered via a single phone line: Our Recommended Provider
1 – Leased Line
A dedicated cable is run and terminated at your premises, similar to a phone line being installed. This cable gives you an un-contended (i.e dedicated to you) connection to the internet, guaranteed to deliver virtually any speed you require. It is the most costly option because the service-level agreement is generally far superior to basic home or business broadband delivered over the phone line, but the performance is also far more consistent. A leased line can cost a lot of money for the initial installation depending how far your premises are from the nearest connection point. However, with the growing availability of low-cost, domestic superfast broadband services, many small and midsize businesses no longer need to pay for their expensive leased lines, so there is often a deal to be negotiated if you have a legitimate need for one.
Speeds go up to 10Gbps (or 10,000Mbps) but most businesses would be purchasing between 100 – 500Mbps
2 – Virgin Fibre-Optic
Most superfast broadband in the UK is delivered via BT’s infrastructure, managed by the BT subsidiary OpenReach. When you shop around for a broadband quote, most companies (TalkTalk, PlusNet, Sky etc) are using BT’s infrastructure – it’s the same set of cables delivering your internet.
By contrast, Virgin have their own dedicated infrastructure which is 100% fibre-optic. This allows them to deliver vastly improved connection speeds over their rivals built on BT’s longstanding network which still uses copper wire going into individual premises.
The service-level agreement is unlikely to match a leased line but the performance will usually be comparable. A significant number of small and medium-sized businesses will be served well by a Virgin fibre-optic connection, with speeds averaging 300Mbps+
3 – Wireless Leased Line
Slightly niche but still applicable to rural areas, a handful of companies are able to deliver a wireless internet connection with leased-line service level agreement, if you have a transmitter in your local area and a clear line of sight to the transmitter. A small receiver is placed on your roof to receive the inbound internet connection, this in turn is connected to a special router, equivalent to a standard broadband router.
This is commonly used in rural areas which are a long way from the broadband exchange, or where it’s impractical to install new cables.
Visit Our Recommended Provider – but be advised you may need to find an equivalent service provider in your area.
4 – VDSL (Superfast) Broadband
The modern equivalent to first-generation ADSL broadband, this is generally known as ‘superfast’ or ‘fibre’ broadband and it’s delivered to your premises via the telephone line.
BT own the core infrastructure but ‘unbundled’ exchanges will allow you to purchase the broadband service itself from any one of hundreds of providers. Many of the big mobile phone companies are offering domestic and business broadband services, so too are the big home media providers such as Sky and TalkTalk.
For most small business and home needs, typical speed of 40 – 80Mbps is more than adequate when sharing a connection between 5 – 10 people.
5 – 3G / 4G / 5G Mobile Data Networks
Where VDSL is unavailable or relatively slow, or useful as a backup connection for your business, it’s possible to use the mobile data network (commonly known as 3G, 4G or 5G) for your home or business broadband. Often, if you have 4G signal, it will outperform low-to-mid quality fibre connections over the phone line.
The major advantage of mobile data networks is that they tend to operate on separate infrastructure to traditional VDSL / fibre broadband over the phone line, so if one fails, the other is likely to still be working. This makes it an ideal backup solution and it’s possible to purchase routers which can automatically switch between your primary internet and backup mobile data connection.
The mobile data network is increasingly delivering 4G to rural areas where traditional broadband is poor. Better still, 2019 has seen an increase in the number of operators offering unlimited data plans, which was always the major limitation of mobile data contracts until now (especially for business users).
Mobile data plans usually have no requirement for you to pay a line rental. Speeds are up to 70Mbps on a 4G connection but usually nearer 20-35Mbps.
Try Three who are now offering a special home and business 4G broadband bundle… I was about to also recommend a company called Relish (the pioneers in the 4G broadband market). However it turns out they have been bought by Three and this is the exact same service.
6 – Satellite Broadband
We’re scraping the barrel now but sometimes satellite is the only way to go.
Able to deliver a connection to pretty much anywhere on the planet, satellite is the ultimate fallback position for areas with poor broadband provision and no mobile data signal. It can deliver speeds in the region of 30Mbps.
Quotas are usually strict and well-enforced, it’s also relatively expensive compared to domestic fibre / VDSL broadband. There is also a high lag-time (latency) due to the distance the signal has to travel every time you request a piece of information. This makes it unsuitable for gaming and questionable for voice traffic (think internet-phones) and conferencing (Skype, Webex). But if you’re forced into considering satellite this is probably the least of your concerns.
Interestingly, SpaceX have recently launched a network of new generation satellites called Starlink designed to deliver broadband across the face of the planet, it will be interesting to see if they can work around the usual performance and latency issues by having a much larger array of satellites in orbit.
7 & 8 – ADSL and Bonded ADSL
This is traditional first generation broadband, delivered over the phone line, where fibre infrastructure is not yet available. It’s also a low-cost option if you live in a fibre area.
Download speeds are reasonable, averaging 6 – 20Mbps, but upload speeds are usually horrendous at no better than 1.5Mbps. This makes it very slow to send large emails or upload media files.
It is possible, if you have no choice but to use ADSL, to join (or bond) several lines together and enjoy the benefit of the combined speeds as if they were a single connection.
We hope this gives you a broad idea of the available internet / broadband alternatives in the UK for your home or business.
You can always contact us for any advice. Perhaps you are moving offices or want to specify a better broadband connection for your existing premises, or to implement a backup internet connection using one of the above alternatives.