Is ADSL doomed?

Jamie Baker


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    ADSL is still used by many businesses across the UK, but are the days numbered for this style of connectivity? With newer, faster, more reliable services being rolled out throughout the country, what does the future hold for ADSL?


    What is ADSL?

    ADSL is an asymmetric digital subscriber line. Basically, it transfers data through the use of copper cables and delivers an asymmetric service; upload speeds that are typically not quite as fast as the download speeds received.

    ADSL has been used consistently in the UK since the introduction of the technology in 1998 and is currently widely considered to be the standard ‘go to’ connection for UK businesses. So why are some experts beginning to claim that ADSL is doomed?


    What’s Wrong with ADSL?

    Nothing is wrong with ADSL, per se. Overall, this traditional connection delivers a (usually) reliable, cost-effective service that gets the job done. However, the main reason why the idea of ADSL being doomed is floating around is because this service doesn’t always match the way we work today.
    “ADSL’s qualities don’t always meet the needs of modern web users.”

    Once upon a time, asymmetric lines were the ideal; when the internet was primarily used to discover new information. It made perfect sense to prioritise download speeds as the average user would have little need — if any — to upload data.

    Is ADSL doomed?

    However, the way that we use the internet has changed and continues to do so. No longer an exclusively information-gathering zone, it’s become an integral part of pretty much all aspects of communication and online storage. Whether it’s emails, voice communications through VoIP, video conferencing, or cloud backup, we’re uploading more data than ever before. And let’s not forget about the rapid rise in online document sharing. ADSL’s qualities don’t always meet the needs of modern web users.

    “...copper connections are rapidly declining.”

    Now that there is a wide range of alternative products; such as ethernet in the first mile (EFM) and leased lines, both of which offer a faster, symmetric connection; it’s natural that questions will start to be raised about the future of ADSL copper lines.


    The current state of ADSL

    In their 2018 World Broadband Statistics report, Point Topic, the leading agency for worldwide broadband, IPTV and VoIP market intelligence, confirmed that copper connections are rapidly declining.

    The number of copper connections dropped by seven per cent in the 12 months prior to the report, compared to a whopping 28 per cent increase for fibre services (fibre to the premises, fibre to the building, and fibre to the cabinet combined). In fact, copper is currently the only technology in its field to be declining at a time when the number of users connecting across the world is hitting record figures.


    End of days for ADSL?

    Sure, there are now many ADSL alternatives that are statistically better than copper from a speed and reliability standpoint, especially when we take into account business requirements. But there are two distinct factors which suggest that ADSL will continue to be around for the foreseeable future.

    First, while ADSL certainly isn’t the most suitable option for most businesses, it continues to meet the needs of many residential consumers, particularly those with low-usage rates. The removal of simple, low-cost connections such as ADSL probably won’t be met with cheers and smiling faces from many homeowners who enjoy this type of service.
    “ADSL isn’t going to cut it for those wanting a fast, super-reliable, symmetrical service”

    Second, the availability of fibre services is going to play a massive role in the future of ADSL. Right now, according to the Ofcom Connected Nations report, 98 per cent of the country is able to get decent ADSL. Compare this to the mere six per cent that has access to full fibre, and it’s clear ADSL holds a significant place as a reliable, available backup.

    Future of ADSL

    Perhaps a much more realistic idea is that it will take a long time for ADSL to completely disappear. In fact, it will more likely transform into a hybrid service. We’ve already seen this happen with services such as VDSL — very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber lines, and G.Fast, which aims to offer a fibre-like service through existing copper cables.


    Is ADSL doomed?

    It can reasonably be assumed that, at some point down the line, ADSL will be replaced with a new technology. However, it is too soon to start planning a send-off. It appears that ADSL will be sticking around for a little longer than many people think.

    ADSL does have its limitations, and these limitations are something that we should all be taking into account when choosing a connection. For instance, ADSL isn’t going to cut it for those wanting a fast, super-reliable, symmetrical service.

    Businesses in particular who rely heavily on their connection for day-to-day operations should be looking into fibre services or leased lines as a more appropriate, future-proof option.

    Find out more

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