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Types of broadband explained

Broadband refers to high-speed internet that is always on. The current typical broadband range of services includes the following. (This excludes public wifi services, and mobile services 3G, 4G or 5G.)

ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line)

ADSL is reliant on the old copper telephone network. Speeds are dependent on distance from the BT exchange, to a maximum download speed of 24mbps.

Speeds drop over distance, and long distances could see speeds below 1Mbps.

This is an asymmetrical service. This means that the download speed is faster than the upload speed. The maximum upload speed for ADSL is typically 512Kbps.

Few ADSL services are still in use, but a few pockets of properties across the county can still only get ADSL.

FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) - superfast broadband

This uses high speed fibre optic cabling from the BT exchange to distribution points installed with communities. These are the green BT boxes installed on paths and kerbs.

But it still uses the old copper telephone cabling from the green box to the property. Speeds are still dependant on distance, but only to the much closer green cabinet.

Superfast is any speed above 24Mbps per second. The maximum download speed, dependent on distance to the cabinet is 80mbps. This is an asymmetrical service, with maximum upload speeds reaching 20Mbps.

This is currently the most common internet service across the county. Work is now under way to upgrade to fibre optic based services.

FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) - ultrafast broadband

This uses high speed fibre optic cabling all the way from the BT exchange (or other provider's network) to the premises. The old copper network is no longer needed.

Speeds are no longer dependent on distance. Based on current technology it will achieve download speeds of between 80Mbps and 1Gbps, depending on the package you buy.

1Gbps is equal to 1,000Mbps. This is up to 40 times faster than entry level superfast broadband speeds.

Some providers still offer an asymmetrical service, with a lower upload speed starting at 20Mbs. But some are now offering a full symmetrical service with the same upload and download speeds.

As new technologies develop, the existing fibre optic cabling can provide even higher speeds than 1Gbps without needing replacement. Only the active equipment in the exchange or your home would need upgrading.

Why should I upgrade my broadband?

A slow or unreliable service can affect our quality of life. Online services are now part of our everyday lives, including:

  • Video streaming (Netflix, Disney+ etc)
  • Shopping
  • Content such as news, entertainment, and educational resources
  • Gaming
  • Working from home
  • Remote learning
  • Health care
  • Storage of photos, documents etc

The benefits of upgrading


Fibre optic based internet services are much faster than FTTC or ADSL. Also, as the download speed is not distance related you'll receive a much more consistent service. This helps:

  • Prevent buffering when watching videos
  • Give you a more consistent experience when video calling
  • Speed up downloading or uploading information

What's more, you can have everyone in your house doing this at the same time, with minimal impact on others.

The newer routers will also often provide the latest wifi technology for improved wireless access across your home.


Unlike copper, fibre optic cables used for transmitting internet signal don't conduct electrical current.

This makes a fibre connection resistant to environmental conditions like lightning, temperature fluctuations, and moisture. They're also resistant to electromagnetic interference and radio signals.

Fibre cables are also more durable than copper.

Future proofed

Demands for internet bandwidth is increasing. So even if you think you don't need extra bandwidth or reliability now, you almost certainly will soon.

Help with getting online and digital skills

If you need help getting online, or want to develop your digital skills further, Norfolk County Council can help you:

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