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Telecoms providers: VDSL - ADSL on steroids

Reading time: 3 mins

Although this internet connection standard was developed immediately after the first iterations of ADSL, it took much longer for VDSL to reach European markets, and even today, it’s still pretty hard to find an Internet Service Provider (ISP) offering this alternative. However, this technology clearly has a lot of advantages over much more popular ADSL internet connections.


What is VDSL

A brief roundup is required to understand the technological foundation of this family of data communications.

Technological digest

Contrary to ADSL, Very high bit rate Digital Subscriber Line does not rely on plain old telephone system copper lines to transmit data. This technology works quite similarly to cable TV networks, except that it doesn’t use coaxial cable connection, but phone connections. In fact, this technology is an hybrid between “old” broadband technologies and “new”, fibre optics-based technologies inasmuch as data is carried over fibre optics but only on one part of the way between the user and his ISP. Just what part, and how much of the connection, depends on the connection type.

Connection types

Four types of connection exist, depending on the distance between the optical node and the final user.

- FTTN or Fibre to the Node is when the node is in the user’s direct neighbourhood,

- FFTC or Fibre to the Curb is when the node goes up to the curb of the user’s building,

- FTTH or Fibre to the Home is when fibre goes all the way to the home of the user,

- FTTB or Fibre to the Building is when the user’s apartment is connected to the node though regular cable even if the fibre enters the user’s building.

Development and enhancements

Despite what marketers say, this is a relatively old technology, with initial developments started in 1991. The first standard was officially approved in 2001, and a VDSL2 standard followed in 2006.

Advantages and disadvantages

Although it is much faster than ADSL, this technology still has its shortcomings.

Advantages of VDSL

The first massive advantage is that this technology is simply much, much faster than ADSL. While ADSL2+ peaks at 24 Megabits per second downstream rates and 3.5 Megabits per second, the first version of VDSL was already more than twice as fast with 55 Megabits per second and 3 Megabits per second respectively. VDSL2 can be as fast as 100 Megabits per second for both downloads and uploads. Also, this technology was deliberately created to handle various type of data traffics, like voice, TV and internet signals, making it purpose-built for triple play offers.


However, some disadvantages still exist:

- Until version 2, upstream rates were still vastly lower than downstream rates,

- Performance also falls dramatically the further the user is from the node,

- This technology is not popular in Europe where markets are controlled by phone line operators who want to stick to their legacy copper lines, extending their lifespan anyway they can through various improvements of ADSL.

VDSL plans and prices in the UK

Interested businesses have few providers to choose from in the UK, but rates are very interesting.

Very few providers...

The problem with this technology is that there are very few ISPs providing internet connection using this technology or at least, very few admitting it! In fact, several popular ISPs simply brand their VDSL2 offers “Optical fibre”.

... at very affordable rates

- BT’s “Infinity” plan costs around £20 per month;

- Spitfire has a series of plans between £25 and £49 per month.