Before the introduction of broadband in the UK, most people were stuck with using a dial-up connection throughout the 1990s. Of course, at the time this was revolutionary technology but for the internet to evolve it was necessary for much faster download speeds to be achievable in homes and businesses across the country.
56kbps dial-up models replaced older 33k models and the first ISDN lines emerged towards the end of the last millennium, allowing businesses to achieve speeds of 128kbps while also being able to make and receive phone calls because two or more lines were being used. The first major broadband services which were available to average businesses and individual users came in the form of ADSL, which stands for asymmetric digital subscriber line. The operative word here is ‘digital’ because it allows the broadband connection to operate on the same line as an analogue phone signal without interfering with it, so a single line can provide simultaneous web access and voice calls.
The asymmetric aspect of the equation essentially allowed for much faster download speeds than upload speeds, which is beneficial for businesses and individuals who are more interested in fast web access and downloads. However, it also became possible to invest in SDLS, with download and upload speeds being almost identical.
In the early days of ADSL, the download speeds available were still relatively low by modern standards, at 256kbps to 512kbps. Thankfully, technology improved sufficiently to enable the roll out of 1Mbps and eventually 2Mbps connections, with 8Mbps ADSL services then becoming commonplace across the UK half way through the first decade of the new millennium. Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) would eventually go on to introduce a maximum download speed of 24Mbps via ADSL, although the limitations of the copper wiring used for the last-mile provision of the service meant that these theoretical limits were rarely attainable in real-world situations.
The speed limits of ADSL broadband services have been reached, but this is not the only available broadband technology. Fibre-optic cabling is quickly becoming the conduit of choice for providers and customers who want to unlock the full potential of the modern internet. Fibre-optic services do not suffer signal degradation over long distances, which is the Achilles’ heel of ADSL based on metallic wiring. So download speeds of 50Mbps were made available to fibre-optic customers, with 100Mbps services coming on stream in 2012.
FTTP (fibre to the property) is available in some areas but its installation can be expensive and time consuming. For this reason FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) is an alternative technology being pursued by BT in order to introduce the speed boosts associated with FTTP but without the same level of cost. FTTC brings the cabling to street-level cabinets and then lets existing copper wiring do the rest of the work, with download speeds of first 40Mbps and then 80Mbps available to thousands of customers.
Fibre technology of all kinds is seen as the future of the broadband market in the UK, with 200Mbps connections on the horizon and the 1Gbps speed barrier sure to be broken further down the line. Britain will finally be catching up with countries such as South Korea, which already have extremely fast networks in place.
Mobile broadband services have also risen to prominence since around 2006, with 3G and HSDPA networking allowing for download speeds of 3.6Mbps, 7.2Mbps and even in excess of 13Mbps in areas with good coverage and compatible devices to hand. 4G will be emerging later in 2012 and on into 2013, outpacing older networking standards to deliver download speeds of 100Mbps or more to people using their smart phones and tablet devices.
This article was written by Daisy Group plc a independant provider of business communication solutions to small, medium and corporate businesses.n Daisy are specialists in the provision of business broadband, lines, calls, mobile and hosting solutions.