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Broadband

Here we provide a very brief explanation of the types of broadband internet connections currently available to businesses and organisations in the UK so you can make some informed decisions.

ADSL

This is the most common type of internet connection and the one you see advertised on the TV. ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. The Asymmetric part means the speed each way is different.

One important thing to understand is, almost regardless of which supplier you choose, the speed and performance you will enjoy is almost completely dependent on your location, how far you are from the BT exchange, how your exchange is serviced and equipped by all the various providers, what cabling is available directly into your premises and what you are willing to pay.

Most smaller organizations can typically merely install an ADSL connection or, what is sometimes referred to as 'broadband'. This is typically a connection that is installed on a normal analogue line and costs approximately £20-£40 per month. This is often OK for an office of up to 30 people but the speed will depend on lots of factors.

Any business where their internet connection is mission critical or where a constant speed and performance is required, along with guaranteed service levels will need a dedicated connection, often referred to as a leased line.

There are hundreds of ADSL Broadband suppliers but in reality most of the ones you see advertised are resellers of the main suppliers. The main suppliers include companies like BT, AOL, O2/Be There, Cable & Wireless, Entanet, Kingston (Kcom), Node4, Pipex, Sky/Easynet, Talk Talk, Tiscali and Zen. There are some surprising omissions from this list. Companies you may have expected to be main suppliers do not have their own network and merely partner with one or more of the main suppliers.

The performance you will get from an ADSL connection will vary from one location to another and there is no way of accurately forecasting in advance exactly what the speeds will be. It can be estimated to some extent by asking a knowledgeable expert like us to research it for you. Also, ADSL is a shared connection (contended) so you will often be sharing the bandwidth with nearby users.

ADSL speeds

The download speed is always faster than the upload - for most small businesses, this is OK. However, for certain businesses, this will not be ideal. Typically, the download speed is 10 times the upload speed. For browsing and general email use, this may be OK. For certain scenarios, this is a real problem. For instance, where connections are using VoIP, poor upload speeds and bottlenecks will adversely affect call quality.

This will also be a problem where data needs to be uploaded to servers elsewhere or where users are streaming video, TV, live pictures and generally moving large files.

ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line - the important thing here is the 'Asymmetric ' part. In other words the download and upload speeds are different. Upload speeds can typically be 5-20% of the download speed. Therefore, where an 8Mb speed is advertised, the upload speed is likely to be only about 0.5-1.5Mb. Upload is critical for a satisfactory performance and, in particular for businesses that do more than just browse the internet (eg VoIP, Citrix and terminal services, etc).

The speed and performance of ADSL can vary and will depend on a surprisingly large amount of factors which are listed below:

  • Distance of your premises from the BT Telephone Exchange
  • Number of copper joints between your premises and the exchange and the quality of those connections
  • Age and quality of the copper cabling in your premises and between it and the exchange
  • Quality of internal cabling in your premises (includes the socket being used and how it has been terminated)
  • Your 'other' internal cabling and devices (includes micro-filters and patch leads/cables -Cat5e leads -sometimes referred to as 'ethernet cables')
  • Environmental interference on any of the copper cable from your socket back to the exchange
  • Type of BT exchange and what investment has been made in it by the various suppliers
  • Your router, firewall and even your PC's and Macs
  • Normal ADSL download speeds are normally a maximum of 24Mbps. Fibre ADSL is much faster - see our dedicated page on Fibre Broadband. ADSL connections can be bonded together to increase speeds - see Bonded Broadband.

Slow broadband? How to improve it.

This is a bit of a specialist subject - unfortunately, as broadband is so cheap, trying to find anyone decent to help you is difficult - we can help. Please call us. Or we have a dedicated page available shortly on how to improve broadband speeds. It's here:

How to Improve Slow Broadband Speeds

Note, not all broadband providers are the same - you may find there are some faster LLU providers available in your area. Or you may have a cable operator in your area such as Virgin Media - call us for advice and we can tell you.

Service Levels

ADSL normally has no service level agreement meaning than it can take a while to resolve faults. It resides on a normal line, which can also be faulty and worsen fault finding processes.

Broadband costs

ADSL can cost as little as £10 per month and as much as £75 per month. The cost depends on the package you buy - you normally get what you pay for!

ADSL Packages and options - an explanation

All the different options available can be very confusing - the various suppliers don't make it easy! Here is a list of things that could affect the price you pay:

  • Contention ratio - the service may be contended meaning you could share speeds. Some providers share your speed with up to 50 other users (50:1 contention) - most contend at 20:1 or less.
  • Speed - an obvious one.
  • Download limits - some packages will limit the amount of data you can download in a certain period (normally a month) - buyer beware!
  • IP Addresses - It may be required that you have 1 or more static published IP addresses (your IT advisor should guide you - or we can) - the more you have the more you pay normally.
  • Router/wireless router - Is this included? We would suggest that free routers are OK for very small businesses but it is worth buying a reasonable router (eg Draytek Vigor) - however, you or your IT advisor will need to configure any non-standard router. A better router will give you more flexibility and will probably be more reliable.

SDSL

This is no longer used in business - it is listed here just for completeness. ADSL is similar to SDSL apart from the speed of download is the same as the upload - never more than 2mb however. That is why it is no longer sold - there are much better connections available.

Types of ADSL

To make things even more complicated, there are several types of ADSL including ADSL, ADSL2, ADSL 2+, ADSL Max, ADSL Annexe A, Annexe M etc.

ADSL Advice

We strongly suggest you contact us - why not fill in our simple enquiry form - it's easy!

What our customers say...

"My experience of dealing with First Office has been fantastic. From my initial meeting with Paul I expected them to be extremely professional and reliable, and that is precisely what they're like."
Maria Quevedo - Artis Education, London

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