What is ADSL Broadband? How does it compare to fibre and cable?

All about standard ADSL broadband.

Learn about what ADSL means, and the pros and cons of this cheap and basic broadband service.


What is ADSL broadband?

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) is the most basic type of broadband connection in the UK. This currently uses a standard copper phone line and offers average download speeds of around 10Mb.

However, as part of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) switch-off, by December 2025, these copper lines are due to be switched off. This means we'll be waving goodbye to ADSL broadband products.

Currently, you may find you can only sign up to an ADSL broadband package if you don't have access to fibre broadband. However, 98% of the UK now has access to superfast fibre broadband with speeds of at least 30Mb.

ADSL Broadband: the key points

ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line.

ADSL broadband requires an active telephone line.

By 2025, as part of the Public Switched Telephone Network switch-off, ADSL broadband products will no longer be available.

ADSL is relatively slow, but it will be fine for basic online tasks. If you still have a choice, we recommend you choose fibre optic broadband where you can.


How does ADSL internet work?

ADSL works by sending data and voice along the same copper wires, with a filter at the end to split the signals. Remember the old days of dial-up when you had to unplug the internet to make a call? You don’t have to do this with ADSL.

Most ADSL broadband now uses ADSL2+ technology, with average download speeds of around 10Mb.

ADSL2 and ADSL2+ are enhancements to the original ADSL standard, each offering higher rates for users situated closer to telephone exchanges. That’s right, with ADSL speed decreases the further you are from an exchange.

Unfortunately, there are a handful of areas currently unable to receive ADSL2 and ADSL2+. In those locations, speeds are limited to a maximum 8Mb and the internet connection is usually a lot slower in practice.

Improvements to the choice of packages, speeds and prices have been enabled thanks to LLU or ‘Local Loop Unbundling’. This is a regulatory process set up by Ofcom, that allows other ISPs to provide services on the BT Openreach network and that’s what's offered by providers such as Sky, TalkTalk and Plusnet.

Why should I choose ADSL broadband? The pros and cons

We like

  • It's affordable.
  • Installation is usually straightforward and cheap.

We don't like

  • It’s much slower than fibre broadband services, especially when uploading.
  • It requires a telephone line and line rental.
  • Speeds get slower the further you are from the exchange.
  • It will be obsolete by December 2025.

Nowadays, it's likely you'll be able to find much more affordable, basic fibre broadband deals, and we recommend this in most circumstances.

Who offers ADSL broadband?

In the run-up to the PSTN Switch-Off, fewer providers are offering ADSL broadband as an option.

You may find you can only sign up to ADSL broadband now if you don't have access to a fibre network. However, this will only be around 2% of properties in the UK.

Which providers still offer standard ADSL broadband internet?

BT - 'BT Broadband'
Unlimited broadband packages start at around £30 on a 24-month contract. BT deals include a free BT Home HUb and free access to the BT Wi-Fi public hotspot network. You’ll get an average download speed of 10Mb and BT broadband is frequently available with free rewards.

NOW Broadband - 'Brilliant Broadband'
Starting from around £20 a month on a 12-month contract, NOW deals offer unlimited data and you can add on call plans, including 'Evening & Weekend’ or ‘Anytime’ calls. The average speed is 11Mb. 

TalkTalk - 'Fast Broadband'
Cheap ADSL broadband deals, starting from £27.95 per month, include a free router. You’ll get an 11Mb average download speed and a 1Mb average upload speed. TalkTalk offers unlimited downloads and online security features.

Is ADSL fast enough?

While the speeds are limited in comparison to high-speed fibre broadband, it should be enough for most individuals or small households.

ADSL packages can cheap, but be aware, as providers phase out ADSL broadband, you may find there are cheaper deals to be had with a basic fibre connection. It can sometimes be a false economy.

To find out the most affordable deals at your address, use the our broadband checker tool.

Frequently asked questions about ADSL broadband

Is ADSL faster than fibre broadband?

No, quite the opposite. ADSL is the slowest broadband technology and will give you download speeds of around 11Mb. In contract, superfast fibre broadband delivers download speeds of 30Mb+. Meanwhile, an ultrafast fibre deal refers to speeds of 300Mb+.

What’s the average price for ADSL broadband?

You can pick up an ADSL deal for around £20 depending on your provider. However, you may find, as ADSL broadband products will no longer be available from December 2025, and providers work to phase these out, a basic fibre package will work out cheaper.

Expert Summary

When it comes to trying to save money, ADSL might sound like the right route to go down. But unless you’re after the very cheapest broadband, or it’s all you can get, we’ll always recommend fibre instead.

Full fibre is limited, but it’s much faster than ADSL and the prices don’t tend to be too bad either. You can often get a cheaper superfast fibre deal. Especially as providers, such as Sky Broadband phase ADSL deals out in time for the copper telephone network switch-off (due by December 2025).

ADSL broadband is a little dated now, but it’s certainly still useable if you still have it. Provided you’re not going to be downloading plenty of big files or gaming online, it should still work well.

However, it's likely you will soon be approached by your provider to move to a basic fibre broadband package. Before this happens, we recommend looking around at your options. If you're out of contract, you don't have to stick with your same provider. These cheap broadband deals are a good alternative.