There are several broadband technologies, each with advantages and disadvantages. Which one is right for you?
If there was a time when we liked our Internet service providers, it has been fine for about 18 months. The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has made many of us home workers, home students and everything in between.
Broadband has become the facilitator of our social lives and our family catch-ups, with virtual cocktails and Zoom quizzes replacing our in-person interactions.
And when it comes to work, conferences went virtual and business meetings were held by video conference as colleagues remained scattered across the country.
Things may return to a semblance of normalcy – we said goodbye to the Zoom quizzes to begin with – but we still depend on our internet access more than ever.
Things have improved dramatically in Ireland when it comes to broadband internet. Not only do we have a variety of affordable broadband options, but service speeds have increased as well. Virgin Media, for example, now has its entry-level offering at 250MB, while Vodafone and Siro have both announced the rollout of 2GB offers in recent weeks. This means better and more reliable connections for working from home and all the other devices that increasingly demand access to our broadband connection.
Which technology is best suited to your needs? Wired or wireless? Fiber to the cabinet or fiber to the house? Has DSL disappeared? And the satellites? And can you get away with mobile broadband?
There are several types of broadband technologies, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. But finding the best solution for you will depend on a number of factors. The first is availability, with operators offering a range of options depending on your address.
There are several different types of broadband available in Ireland.
ADSL, also known as standard broadband, uses copper telephone lines to carry broadband signals. Typically, this offers speeds of up to 24 Mbps.
The advantage of this technology is that it is cheaper and widely accessible, costing around € 35 per month; the downside is that you have to have a phone line installed – which is no longer a given – and the speeds are significantly slower than the new technologies that have flooded the market.
Your quality of service can also be impacted by the distance from the cabinet and by the quality of your telephone connection.
Fiber and partial fiber
Fiber broadband, on the other hand, uses fiber optic cables that offer faster speeds than ADSL and more reliable service. If you use a lot of streaming services, play games online, or have multiple devices connected to the internet at once – as most homes do these days – then fiber optic broadband can help keep you safe. consistency of your service.
It also ensures a certain sustainability of the network, allowing for faster speeds as technology improves.
But not all “high-speed fibers” are created equal. There are two different types.
Fiber to the cabinet, also known as partial fiber, is where the fiber optic cables carry the service to the street cabinet, and from there use copper wires or a coaxial cable to connect to individual homes. It offers a cost effective way to access fast broadband at your home, but speeds are slower because copper cables in your home slow down service. As a general rule, costs can go from 40 €, without promotional offers and depending on the speed you want.
There is also fiber to the home or to the premises. As the name suggests, fiber-to-the-home consists of fiber-optic cables to your premises. Fiber to the home or premises can offer speeds of 1 Gb or more, and is considered more reliable in service. It is also more expensive, starting at € 60.
There are many operators offering partial fiber, including Virgin Media, Eir, Pure Telecom, Digiweb and Vodafone.
Siro is one of the providers of such connectivity. The company, which is a joint venture between ESB and Vodafone, builds a fiber-optic broadband network over ESB’s infrastructure. Last month, it announced an upgrade and expansion of its fiber-to-the-home network by 620 million euros, which would almost double its reach to 770,000 homes and businesses or 2.1 million people. and 154 cities in the state.
In early October, the company launched its first 2Gb home broadband service, selecting Kilkenny as the first 2Gb city. The current fiber optic network upgrade will also support speeds of up to 10 Gb in the future.
Siro also supplies the 1 Gb domestic broadband offer from Sky and Vodafone; the latter also connected its first 2Gb client.
Eir is another rival in this area. The incumbent telecommunications operator has invested millions in upgrading its copper network to a fiber network capable of meeting the growing demand for broadband to broadband.
The company announced in August that it would expand its gigabit network deployment to 200,000 additional homes and businesses across the Republic. This will bring the total number of premises to be passed through the network to 1.9 million, or about 84% of all homes and businesses in the state.
Virgin Media offers some of the fastest speeds available in the country, with a mix of fiber and fiber broadband. Its pure fiber offer goes up to 1 Gb of speed, with a fiber part for the lowest expenses.
But where cities and suburban areas can benefit from access to 2GB connections, there are still parts of the country where the promise of a decent broadband connection is a distant hope. That’s where the National Broadband Plan comes in, aimed at providing high-speed Internet access to thousands of properties and premises in rural areas of the country. It is responsible for transporting more than 500,000 premises with a fiber connection in the years to come, although the Covid-19 emergency has caused some delays.
Wireless and satellite broadband
Available only in certain regions, fixed wireless broadband uses radio signals and cell towers to access the Internet in your home. If you can’t access broadband through more reliable cables, this could be an option, with plans up to 150 Mbps offered by carriers like Ruralwifi.
Satellite broadband was mentioned as a potential solution for households that will not be covered by the national broadband plan.
In July, the director of the National Space Center, Rory Fitzpatrick, told TDs and senators that it would be prohibitively expensive to provide fiber-optic broadband in some areas, and suggested that the government might consider giving a subsidy. or a subsidy to households in those areas to allow them to take advantage of satellite services instead.
However, it is generally not considered a good option for those who need fast broadband with access to multiple devices simultaneously or for heavy users.
There was a time when the idea of relying solely on mobile broadband was a last resort. Now it’s finally a realistic prospect, with higher speeds and more robust networks on offer.
The advent of 5G has opened up new possibilities for broadband in Ireland. The mobile broadband broadband connection could in theory provide speeds between 500 Mbps and 1 Gbps nationwide. Some services are also portable in that they only require a plug and play modem that you can take with you if you go on vacation, for example.
The only problem ? Blanket. The 5G network is growing rapidly, but that means there are still places without services, and your coverage depends on the progress of your individual network provider’s service deployment.
For those who can take advantage of it, Eir, Three, and Vodafone all offer 5G broadband plans at a cost of around € 45 per month.
For others, 4G broadband will give you 20 Mbps – not fast enough to replace a fiber connection, but enough to let you stream videos and do most of the average weight online tasks.
BROADBAND BUYER’S GUIDE
What should you look for in your broadband connection? Do you know your ping time from your latency? And do caps still exist?
Speed is one of the first things we look at in a broadband connection. But what does this mean in concrete terms?
Broadband speeds are measured in megabits per second or gigabits per second. The higher the number, the faster the data can theoretically be transferred through your connection. For ADSL up to 24 Mbps; for fiber, it can reach 2 Gbit / s. This means you can download high definition movie in less than a minute or send photos and videos instantly. It also helps when you have multiple devices trying to use your broadband service at the same time – downloading a video, playing online games, trying to do a video conference.
However, it is a good idea to read the fine print. Some broadband speeds are advertised as “medium” or “up to”, which means you are looking at the speeds available for 50% and 80% of customers.
There was a time when broadband plans had a limit on how much data you could download a month before incurring penalties. Even the so-called unlimited plans had a “fair use” limit which, if you violated it consistently, would impact your service or, in some cases, cost extra.
At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, most telecom companies lifted the broadband usage limitations they previously placed on customers, acknowledging the fact that we were all suddenly in the most unusual situation of our life. However, it’s always worth checking the fine print of your individual broadband plan. Just to be sure.
Latency and ping
This is the reaction time of your broadband. Like many things in life, you don’t notice the impact of latency on your broadband connection until it affects you in a negative way.
Measured in milliseconds, latency refers to the time it takes for a signal to travel through the network and back; Ping time measures the time of the one-way trip. The lower the latency or ping time, the better.
Like all services, broadband usually comes with a contract. How long you want to commit to is up to you. A 12 month contract is standard, usually with a discount that is waived after the initial period expires. However, some vendors offer rolling 30-day contracts for customers, which is handy if you don’t want to commit to the long term.
The cost of your broadband plan is usually what we all focus on, but watch out for other charges that may appear. This includes installation fees, equipment costs, or the possibility that your monthly service charge will increase after six months or one year.