The difference between ADSL2+ and cable broadband

  • ADSL2+ uses copper lines
  • Cable uses a mix of fibre optics and copper
  • ADSL2+ more widely available

A lot of people we talk to don’t know the difference between ADSL2+ and cable broadband internet, and some aren’t even aware of what kind of connection they have at home. Both types of broadband are fast, running at speeds of up to 24Mbps for ADSL2+ and up to 30Mbps for Cable, but the means to which they enter your home is via different mediums.

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ADSL2+ broadband

ADSL2+ broadband internet runs on a copper phone line under the ground. It comes into your home through a jack in the wall. If you want to use the internet and telephone simultaneously, you’ll need to plug your ADSL2+ modem and telephone into two ports on a line filter, which usually comes free with the modem.

ADSL2+ runs at speeds of up to 24Mbps, but your speed depends on how close your home is to the nearest telephone exchange. The further away you live, the more speed you’ll lose on the connection.

You can have ADSL2+ without a phone service by setting up a Naked DSL connection. This ADSL2+ service still runs on a phone line, but you won’t be able to use a telephone service, and don’t have to pay for a phone bill.

ADSL2+ uses an ADSL2+ modem, which may or may not also be connected to a wireless router, allowing you to create a Wi-Fi network within your home.

ADSL2+ is the most common form of super-fast broadband currently available in Australia, and as there is a lot of competition in the industry from numerous different Internet Service Providers (ISPs), it is also the cheapest option if available in your area.

Phone exchanges enabled for ADSL2+ usually begin at a city’s epicentre and move outwards through the metropolitan area. ISPs enable ADSL2+ services where they think they’ll make their money back on the investment of putting their own DSLAM equipment into a phone exchange. This means densely populated areas get connected for ADSL2+ before outer suburbs or regional town centres.

There are two main copper wire telephone infrastructures in Australia, Telstra and Optus. As Telstra used to be a government-owned company (Telecom), its network is much more extensive than Optus’. Most ISPs pay to put their equipment in either Telstra or Optus phone exchanges in order to service an area.

Sometimes you won’t be able to get ADSL2+ because of infrastructure issues in your street, like pair gains, RIMs and sub-exchanges, or if you live too far away from the exchange. In these instances you will most probably be able to receive an ADSL1 service, as is the case in regional or less populated locations.

Cable broadband


Cable broadband runs on a coaxial cable up to the pillar (or node) in your street, and then travels by fibre optic cable after that - the same kind that provides cable TV services like Foxtel. Cable broadband runs at speeds of up to 30Mbps, but the speed does decrease at a faster rate than that of ADSL2+the further away you are from the node.

Broadband via cable entails having the infrastructure in your location, and this means living in a metropolitan area. There is less competition in the cable broadband market, so your main choices for providers are either BigPond or Optus.

Cable broadband needs a special cable modem and cable wiring into your home or business. This usually costs more to set-up than ADSL2+ internet, but is a form of broadband that is extremely stable. You can also use a wireless router to create a Wi-Fi network within your home.

One disadvantage to cable broadband, besides higher costs and quickly diminishing speeds, is that it has fairly slow upload speeds when compared with ADSL2+. Uploads are where you put something onto the internet, like email attachments, photos on Facebook, videos on YouTube, or when you make VoIP phone calls or play online video games.

You can have a cable TV connection running simultaneously on your broadband cable, as well as a telephone line if you desire. If you don’t have a copper phone line or telephone on your cable service, this is considered to be a Naked Cable broadband connection.

If you can get fibre optic broadband you should. If you can’t, your best bet is to go for ADSL2+, and if this is unavailable in your area, look for cable broadband. If this too is not an option, ADSL1 will be your best choice. If you can’t get ADSL1, look for mobile wireless broadband. Finally, if this too is unavailable, you can get a satellite broadband connection.