Broadband Answers. All your broadband questions and queries answered at Broadband Essentials. Answers to all your broadband questions.

Broadband Answers


Broadband Essentials answers your broadband questions.


What is broadband?
How do I get broadband?
What is ADSL broadband?
What is cable broadband?
What is SDSL broadband?
How is broadband better than dial-up?
How do I convert from dial-up?
Can I get broadband? (Broadband availability)
What hardware do I need?
What is a microfilter?
Is broadband expensive?
Broadband contention ratios


What is broadband?
Broadband is the common term for a high speed internet connection that has a high bandwidth. This means that with a broadband connection you can receive and transmit data up to 40 times faster than a normal dial-up connection.

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How do I get broadband?
There are different ways of delivering broadband services - over telephone lines, cable connections, via one or two way satellite systems and even by radio - and there are many companies who offer these services.

The two most regularly used ways of getting broadband are:-

  • ADSL broadband - convert your existing analogue BT phone line into an Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line using a modem at home and one at your BT exchange.
  • Cable broadband - use your existing cable network and a high speed cable modem to receive broadband.

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What is ADSL broadband?
ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is the most common way of receiving broadband. ADSL broadband is the generic name for a technology that allows large amounts of digital information to be sent over an ordinary copper telephone line, your standard BT phone line.

It is asymmetric because it allows information to be downloaded more quickly than information is uploaded. This makes it particularly suitable for Internet surfing and for downloading files, music, movie and sports clips.

This is the key reason broadband providers quote packages with higher download speeds than upload speeds.

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What is cable broadband?
Cable broadband connects your home computer to the Internet via a high-speed cable modem and fibre optic network. It differs from standard dial-up, which uses a traditional telephone line to connect to the Internet.

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What is SDSL broadband?
SDSL (Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line) allows information to be both sent and received at the same broadband speeds.

This makes SDSL broadband particularly suitable for businesses that regularly need to transfer and receive large files or volumes of information between offices and with people working from home.

Broadband Symmetric services are based on Single pair High bit rate DSL (SHDSL) broadband technology.

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How is broadband better than dial-up?
You can do everything you need to do online more quickly and more easily with broadband.

Broadband benefits:-

  • Up to 40 times faster than dial-up
  • Benefit from an 'always-on connection
  • Talk and surf at the same time - no second line required
  • Enjoy a richer online experience
  • It's simple to install, there's no need for an engineer to call
  • Keep your existing BT line and number
  • Enhanced security
  • Play interactive games at top speed against gamers around the world

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How do I convert from dial-up?
Installing Broadband is easy! You don't need an engineer you can do it, even if you have little or no PC knowledge.

Most broadband providers will provide a modem, microfilters and instructions for free although some do charge.

It may take up to 10 days for BT to broadband enable your phone line. Once this is done follow the simple set-up instructions provided and feel the power and freedom of broadband.

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Can I get broadband? (Broadband availability)
91% of the UK can receive ADSL broadband via there BT phone line. Coupled with this you can also receive broadband via your cable connection.

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What hardware do I need?
The use ADSL broadband via you existing BT phone line you will need a modem and at least one microfilter. These are provided by most broadband providers for free although some do charge.

To use cable broadband you will need a cable modem.

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What is a microfilter?
You will need to plug an ADSL filter (microfilter) into every telephone socket where you intend to use the phone line for telephone calls, fax data, satellite receivers or a dial-up modem.

Microfilters enable you to simultaneously surf the net and make a phone call at the same time.

Your broadband provider usually provides at least one microfilter free.

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Is broadband expensive?
There are hundreds of broadband providers offering packages to suit most pockets and requirements.

Most broadband packages are offered in a pay per month deal with no hidden extra costs. Some broadband providers offer free hardware and connection while others charge for both.

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Broadband contention ratios
To make ADSL more cost effective BT ADSL services are 'contended' (shared). The usual contention ratios are:-

  • Home 50:1
  • Business 20:1

This contention is applied within the BT network both locally with other users on your telephone exchange and within the BT network as it connects into your providers network.

What this means in the worst case is that you could be sharing a 500 Kbit/s connection with up to 49 other users. So if they were all using it at the same time 'theoretically' you would only get 10 Kbit/s (not very fast at all - in fact quite a bit slower than a normal modem).

However, in reality this scenario is very unlikely to happen and you should usually find it to be far faster than a modem connection.

ADSL relies on individual users not making unreasonable traffic demands on the network to provide fast access speeds for all.

This is why business broadband costs more than home use broadband as there are fewer users to share the line with.

Remember if you are not getting the speed you expect it can be due to the contention ratio but also to many other factors including the capacity of the remote site you are accessing, the quality and length of your telephone line from the local BT exchange.

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