What’s the Difference Between ADSL, VDSL and Fibre Broadband, and What Should I Choose?

By | July 31, 2016

Choosing a broadband connection can be confusing with all the options available. Acronyms like ADSL and VDSL don’t tell you much about how the connection works or what kind of performance you’ll get for the price. If you’re not sure which type of broadband connection to invest in for your New Zealand home, consider how the current options stack up against your daily use.

Broadband Options in New Zealand

broadband providerADSL, VDSL and fibre are the three types of broadband available to New Zealand residents. Each offers a different level of speed and is available in different locations. ADSL is the most common with access spanning just about the entire country. VDSL serves roughly 60 percent of home, and fibre is expected to reach 75 percent of homes and businesses once installation of the specialized cables is complete. The quality of service you can get depends on the type of connection, the location of the provider and whether or not the line experiences interference from the surrounding environment.

What is ADSL?

ADSL stands for asymmetrical digital subscriber line, a connection achieved by using a splitter to allow you to get Internet access through your existing phone lines. The splitter divides the signals not used by phone calls into multiple channels and brings data in through the channels with the best connections.

ADSL is the slowest type of broadband you can get, but it’s also the cheapest. The signal is better if you live “downstream” and close to the provider. Both distance and direction can result in degradation of the signal as it travels. Some providers are beginning to offer a faster option called ADSL2+ for users living within two kilometers of enabled cabinets.

ADSL is ideal for households where the Internet is mainly used for email, social media and other light daily tasks. However, since the maximum download speed of ADSL2+ is only around 24 Mbps, it can’t be used to for streaming media.

The VDSL Difference

With upload speeds reaching 60 Mbps, a very-high-bitrate digital subscriber line lives up to the name. You get more flexibility in your Internet use and enjoy better performance as long as you’re close to the source. There are fewer telephone cabinets enabled for VDSL than for ADSL in New Zealand, but for those who live near one, the connection provides enough speed and bandwidth to stream audio and video or support small business computer networks. The signal also retains its quality better whether you’re upstream or downstream of the provider.

Getting Enough Fibre

The emerging fibre network is also called ultra-fast broadband (UFB), and it’s a well-deserved title. Access remains intermittent as the cables are being installed, but for homes located within range of a fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) connection, it’s possible to get upload speeds as fast as 300 Mbps. In the future, fibre cables may be able to support upload speeds as fast as 1 Gbps, a speed with the potential to give individuals and businesses unprecedented freedom in Internet use. If such speeds do become possible, it could revolutionize the way New Zealanders experience everything from television to e-commerce.

This kind of speed is achievable thanks to glass conductors only as big around as hairs. Instead of electricity, signals are sent through the conductors as light. This eliminates most forms of potential interference, so the signal never degrades as it travels. Getting UFB in your home means paying a little more to have a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connection run and dealing with a higher monthly broadband bill, but if you use the Internet for media-heavy activities such as gaming, this type of connection will serve you the best.

Depending on your location, you may not yet have access to the kind of broadband connection you want. Start with the best available option for your area, and chances are you’ll be able to upgrade in the future. However, even if you are in a position to get VDSL or UFB, consider your actual needs before committing to a plan with higher costs. Your ideal connection will provide the right amount of speed and little or no loss of signal at a manageable monthly rate.