Broadband demystified: What does fibre, VDSL or wireless really mean?

  • 26/06/2019
  • Sponsored by - Chorus
Chorus
A guide to the best technology for a family watching many devices. Photo credit: Getty Images

 

When it comes to entertainment in 2019, quality of internet access is king. Whether you're streaming sports, watching Netflix or gaming, a fast reliable web connection is key.

Between fibre, VDSL/ADSL and wireless there are many ways to connect to the internet and not all are created equal, so let's unpack some of the jargon and figure out what works best for you.

Fibre

Fibre is, put simply, the gold standard when it comes to broadband, offering a stable connection and the fastest speeds available.

Steve Pettigrew is a spokesperson for Chorus, New Zealand's largest internet infrastructure provider, and he says the big difference with fibre is it makes internet more like a utility, such as water or power. " When you turn the lights on in one part of the house you don’t expect them to go dim in another part. It's the same with broadband."

"If you’re a family where someone may be watching the Rugby World Cup, someone else may be watching Netflix and the kids are in their rooms gaming. Fibre allows you to do all of that [at peak performance] at the same time."

Why is fibre so much faster?

Well, a fibre optic cable uses tiny strands of glass instead of copper wire. Signals are passed using light instead of electricity and since light is the fastest thing there is, data transmits almost instantly. 

Internet speed is measured using ‘megabits per second’, usually abbreviated to Mbps. Don't worry too much about what a bit is or what makes it mega, just remember that fibre offers speeds of up to 1000 Mbps.

For comparison, a more traditional broadband connection on the copper network can hover between 5-70Mbps. Luckily, getting fibre installed can be done in one appointment and is free for standard installations. Give your internet service provider a call and ask about fibre, if it’s available at your place they'll work with Chorus to set you up.

Chorus is installing around 750 fibre connections per day and have connected more than 560,000 Kiwi homes and businesses to the fibre network over the last few years. Check if fibre is available in your area here.

Unfortunately, not everyone is currently eligible to access the fibre network but never fear, there are alternatives.

VDSL and ADSL

VDSL stands for 'Very High Speed Digital Subscriber line' and ADSL stands for 'Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line service' but that doesn't tell you much.

What's important is that if you can't get fibre, VDSL comes with many of the same benefits and is available in approximately 80 percent of Kiwi homes and businesses.

VDSL can reach speeds of up to 70 mbps which should more than cover the average internet user's needs, even for streaming in high resolution. ADSL is the most basic broadband service, with speeds up to 25 mbps which is fine for everyday internet use and streaming at lower resolutions.

Both VDSL and ADSL like most other broadband technologies relies on the ultra-fast fibre network to the nearest exchange. The difference is in the ‘last mile’ providing connectivity to your home as both VDSL and ADSL use a traditional copper line feeding directly to your property. Unlike fibre where you can choose the speed you want, the speed of copper connections is determined by how far away you are from your nearest telecommunications cabinet. With fibre on the other hand you can choose the speed you want.

VDSL plans typically don't cost more than ADSL, so it's worth giving your provider a call and asking what options are available. Pettigrew says whatever network you're on, Chorus is dedicated to ensuring the best experience possible.

"Chorus has made a commitment to the law commission that our network will always remain uncongested. So whether you're on at 4am or 8pm, regardless of how many people are online, we'll make sure the network has capacity to deal with that." 

 

Chorus
Before the Rugby World Cup begins make sure your internet is set up properly. Photo credit: Getty Images

Wireless

Now, this can get confusing. People sometimes use the phrases wi-fi and wireless interchangeably but they refer to different things. Wi-fi is the process by which devices connect to your broadband modem without the need for an ethernet cable.

Wireless, or 'Fixed Wireless', is a type of internet connection for a home or business which depends on the mobile data network in the same way your phone does, instead of via direct individual copper or fibre lines to your property.

This can be a good option for users where fibre or VDSL isn’t available, and are looking for a quick setup to get online.

It does come with some downsides however. Unlike fibre or ADSL/VDSL, fixed wireless connection speed is affected by how many users are on the local network at the same time,  and can struggle with streaming content in high resolution. If you're in a household looking to stream in 4K content or do online gaming, this probably isn’t an option for you.

General Tips

When you're connecting to your modem through Wi-fi, imagine your broadband router as speaker playing music and all of your devices are ears trying to listen. If your router is buried under a pile of books or under a desk, your devices may not get the best connection. Try placing your router somewhere elevated and central like near your TV in your living room for the best results.

To continue the music metaphor, plugging a device straight into the modem is like plugging in a pair of headphones straight into your stereo. The connection is more stable and overall quality will be better. If you're streaming Netflix in 4K on your living room TV, think about plugging the TV straight into your modem instead of connecting via wi-fi. This will keep your stream from stuttering or buffering and free up wi-fi bandwidth for other devices.

It's also worth thinking about upgrading your router, as not all routers perform equally.  Depending on how new your router is, the signal strength of wi-fi can be much stronger and could drastically improve your connection. Call your ISP and ask about upgrading your router or head to your local electronics supplier to upgrade.

With this year’s Rugby World Cup around the corner, there's never been a better time to get your internet in match ready shape. Head to www.streambig.co.nz to get prepared and check if you are on the best available broadband.

This article is created for Chorus

 

 

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