What is broadband?

In this article we’ll explain the broadband basics, including: what different types of broadband there are – including fibre broadband and mobile broadband – and what kind of speeds are right for you.

Okay, so what actually is broadband?

Broadband is a high-speed way of connecting to the internet. If you have it in your home it allows you to connect web-enabled devices like phones, laptops and smart TVs to the internet to stream TV shows, make video calls and access websites.

Broadband is a much faster method of connecting to the internet than the previous method, dial-up (sometimes called narrowband) and has largely replaced it in most major countries across the world. You can also combine your internet and TV with our broadband and TV deals, so you can enjoy superfast internet and a broad selection of TV channels.


What different types of broadband are there?

The three most common types of broadband in the UK are ADSL broadband, cable broadband and fibre broadband. Each type of broadband offers different speeds and varying reliability. It is generally considered that when it comes to broadband the faster it is, the better your experience. So let’s have a look at each type…

What can you do with broadband?

Having a fast, reliable broadband connection to your home is becoming more and more essential to modern living. The faster your connection is the more you will enjoy the online things you love the most. For more information on all things broadband, please visit our broadband glossary.

What is fibre broadband and do you need it?

A fibre optic connection delivered straight into your home (FTTP) is currently the fastest type of broadband connection you can receive in the UK. It’s generally faster than standard broadband and provides a high-quality, reliable connection ensuring any annoying buffering gripes are kept to a minimum.

If you find yourself streaming more films and TV shows, working from home and you’re starting to rely on smart devices more and more, a fast fibre broadband connection is probably for you.

How does fibre broadband work?

Instead of being transported into your home via BT’s ageing copper wires and copper tubes, like standard broadband connections, fibre networks are delivered using superfast fibre optic cables making the transfer of data much more efficient.

While standard broadband packages usually deliver average speeds in the region of 10-11Mbps, fibre optic connections offer average speeds of around 67Mbps. Virgin Media's Gigabit broadband can even reach speeds in excess of 1000Mbps, or 1Gbps. In fact, when you compare standard broadband vs fibre optic broadband, the differences are vast.

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Is having a fibre optic connection really necessary?

If you don’t use the internet very much, having a fibre network in your home is probably a waste of time and money.

However, should you live in shared accommodation, regularly stream movies or use catch-up services, play video games online, have loads of web-connected gadgetry or regularly upload and download large files, then you really might want to consider it.

Faster speeds really can help eliminate the dreaded buffering and help you enjoy your favourite web-based activities more fluidly. At Virgin Media we don’t need to run your broadband through a landline, so you can enjoy superfast speeds without having to bundle your packages with TV, phone or an O2 sim. Just check out our broadband only deals.

Naturally, an evening without buffering is in no way guaranteed. During peak hours on your favourite streaming service you will more than likely encounter some lag. When comparing broadband to fibre connections though, the fibre network will always come out on top.

What is mobile broadband?

Your home broadband connection is delivered by an internet provider using copper wires, coaxial cables or a complex set of fibre optic cables underneath the ground, piped to your front door usually via the cabinet in your street.

Mobile broadband, on the other hand, is totally cable-free. Using a mobile broadband device to connect your laptop or tablet to a mobile network via 4G or 3G services, just like your smartphone does.

How does mobile broadband work?

There’re loads of mobile broadband devices on the market that enable you to access the internet without cables. They mostly sit under these four categories…