The difference between ADSL, Fibre, and LTE

Residential and business users are progressively more dependent on reliable Internet connections as the world is becoming more digitised. Currently, entertainment, communication, smart home appliances and security technology make use of the Internet. Additionally, according to a joint 2019 Globalwebindex and Reddit report, the global online community is growing but changing. With declining membership of real-world social groups, clubs, and local organisations, people are turning to online communities to experience a sense of belonging. 

These trends point to an intensifying need for stable and reliable Internet connections and people are asking more questions about the differences between ADSL, fibre, and LTE. 


Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) is a type of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) broadband communications technology used for connecting to the Internet. Compared to traditional modem lines, ADSL allows more data transfer. 

ADSL data transfer consists of electrical signals transmitted over copper telephone lines and thus, users with existing wiring into their premises, will not require any additional installations to obtain an ADSL service. However, a microfilter needs to be installed to allow concurrent ADSL and regular voice (telephone) services routed by the telephone lines of a subscriber.

ADSL subscribers must be located within a radius of 3 to 5 kilometres of the nearest geographical location of a provider to have access to ADSL services. They also need a special ADSL modem which typically supports data transfer rates of from 1.5 to 9 Mbps when receiving data (or downstream rate) and from 16 to 640 Kbps when sending data (or upstream rate). 

Increased traffic generated by users in the same neighbourhood can cause congestion or bottlenecks. Also, since copper telephone cables were never intended to meet the demands of modern Internet usage coupled with speed limitations, users find the data transfer rate increasingly unacceptable. Cable theft also increases the challenges associated with copper lines. Because of the cost in their replacement, downtime and unreliable service add to the unavailability of services.

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Fibre Internet changes the way in which data is transferred and is faster than cable by transmitting large amounts of data in a single line. Fibre optic cables consist of minuscule glass fibres and transmit data using pulses of light. Light travels like electricity would through a copper wire, but at about two-thirds of the speed of light which is roughly 66 times faster than the speed of electrical signals. An advantage is that the fibre cables can carry multiple signals simultaneously. Fibre is referred to as ‘high-speed broadband’ since it currently may reach speeds of up to 10Gbpss and will increase as it develops.

The quality of data transmission is increased with the use of light since the signal can carry data much further from the source without weakening. Electromagnetic interference is eliminated, and fibre optic cables are also far less vulnerable to aging, decay, and infrastructure upgrades than copper lines. Users experience a reliable, high-speed Internet connection and have the option to order Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) which is more cost effective than copper landlines.


Essentially Long Term Evolution (LTE) is a path or platform to access wireless 4G (Fourth Generation) Internet, similar to using the Internet on a smart-phone. It does not need to be limited to a single location, is comparatively quick and easy to set up and offers LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) users speed of around 55 Mbps.

LTE is an improvement over 3G, but not substantial enough to qualify as a new generation and is thus technically not 4G. Most cellular carriers advertise their networks as 4G LTE, because of the popularity of the name and is the cutting edge of consumer cell phone technology.

4G is faster than LTE but in most cases, the download speed is comparable unless users reside in a major city which is considered a high-traffic area which can cause congestion. As cellular carriers continue to update their LTE networks, the gap between LTE and ‘real 4G’ is reduced specifically with LTE-A, which is currently the fastest option available. 

While all three of these widely used Internet solutions have their advantages, fibre is the most reliable solution in both the long and short term. 

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