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What is ADSL?

Once the most common internet connection in Australia, much of the ADSL infrastructure has now been replaced by the NBN.

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, updated on February 13th, 2024       

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Before the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia, ADSL internet was the prevailing fixed line connection around the country. Although times have changed and this connection type is no longer widely available in Australia, it’s still worth understanding how it works, especially if the NBN hasn’t reached your home or office yet. You can find out all about ADSL connections right here with Savvy in our handy guide today!

What is ADSL and how does it work?

ADSL, or asymmetric digital subscriber line, is a type of internet connection which enables internet access over traditional copper telephone lines. It works by utilising different frequencies for voice and data transmission, allowing users to simultaneously make phone calls and access the internet. Here's how it works:

  • Splitting frequencies: ADSL divides the available frequencies on a copper telephone line into two bands: a lower-frequency band for voice calls (20Hz to 4kHz) and a higher-frequency band for data transmission (25kHz to 1.1MHz).
  • Asymmetric speed: ADSL is “asymmetric” because it allocates more bandwidth to downloads than uploads. This design is suitable for most home users, as they typically download more content than they upload.
  • Modems and filters: to use ADSL, you need an ADSL modem, which connects to your phone line and your computer. Microfilters are also used to separate voice and data signals so your phone and internet can operate simultaneously.
  • Signal compression: ADSL uses a technique called signal compression to maximise data transfer rates. It sends digital data in a format which takes up less space, improving efficiency.
  • Distance limitations: one key limitation of ADSL is that signal quality degrades with distance from the telephone exchange. The further you are from the exchange, the slower your connection may be.

How fast is ADSL internet?

ADSL internet speeds can vary significantly based on factors like your distance from the telephone exchange, line quality and your internet service provider's (ISP) infrastructure. In Australia, ADSL typically offers speeds up to 24Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads. However, you’re unlikely to experience maximum download speeds, with most generally only seeing up to around 10Mbps.

This means it comes with much slower maximum speeds than other, more modern forms of internet connection. For example, the slowest NBN speed tier, NBN 12, is often able to consistently deliver speeds beyond what you might expect through ADSL (12Mbps), while higher tiers can outperform it significantly. Additionally, home wireless broadband connections come with speeds from 20Mbps to 25Mbps (4G plans) into the hundreds of Mbps (5G plans).

Is ADSL internet still available in Australia?

Yes – as of September 2023, ADSL internet plans are still available in Australia. However, their availability depends on your location and whether the NBN services have been rolled out in your area. In any area where it isn’t yet available, ADSL remains an option for internet connectivity.

It's important to note, though, that over time, as the NBN continues to expand its coverage, ADSL will eventually become entirely obsolete. Once the NBN becomes available in your area, you’ll be given a set timeframe to switch before your existing ADSL internet is disconnected.

If ADSL is no longer available, there are a few options for you to choose from for your internet:

  • NBN: the most obvious alternative is ADSL’s direct replacement. NBN plans are designed to provide more reliable and faster fixed line internet to homes and businesses around Australia.
  • Fibre internet: if you’re looking for a fixed line connection but prefer to sidestep the NBN, several private companies offer their own networks of fixed line internet, known generally as fibre internet.
  • Cable internet: if you have (or had) a pay TV subscription, you may still have access to cable internet. However, like ADSL, this is being overhauled in favour of the NBN.
  • Home wireless broadband: you may wish to go the wireless route, in which case a home wireless plan may be able to deliver the internet you’re looking for.
  • Mobile broadband: though not designed for home connections, mobile broadband also utilises mobile networks to provide a source of roaming internet for on-the-go use.

To get the most up-to-date information on the availability of ADSL or the NBN in your specific location, it's worth checking with internet providers or visiting the NBN Co website to see if services have been rolled out in your area.

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Savvy is partnered with Econnex Comparison (CIMET Sales Pty Ltd, ABN 72 620 395 726) to provide readers with a variety of internet plans to compare. We do not compare all retailers in the market, or all plans offered by all retailers. Savvy earns a commission from Econnex each time a customer buys an internet plan via our website. We don’t arrange for products to be purchased directly, as all purchases are conducted via Econnex.

Any advice presented above is general in nature and doesn’t consider your personal or business objectives, needs or finances. It’s always important to consider whether advice is suitable for you before purchasing an internet plan. For further information on the variety of internet plans compared by Econnex, or how their business works, you can visit their website.

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