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What is cable broadband?

Jul 11, 2023

Cable broadband delivers the fastest download speeds on the market, but is this type of connection right for you?

You might have come across the term 'cable broadband' while you've been searching for the fastest or best broadband deals on the market.

Although cable broadband is similar to fibre broadband, there is one key difference: rather than using copper wires to connect your home to the local cabinet, cable broadband uses coaxial cables. This means cable deals are much quicker than ADSL packages, fibre-to-the-cabinet connections and even some Full Fibre deals.

In this handy guide, we've explained exactly what cable broadband is, the benefits it can provide and some details about how you can check whether cable broadband packages are available at your address.

Cable broadband connects your home to a fibre cabinet in your area. However, cable broadband is different to many of the ADSL and fibre broadband deals you'll see on the market.

It's true that both fibre connections and cable connections use fibre optic cables to send data. However, cable broadband utilises coaxial cables in the last part of the journey between the exchange and your home, rather than outdated copper wires or fibre optic cables. These are the same cables that are used to provide cable TV to homes.

Coaxial cables consist of a copper wire that's surrounded by a concentric conducting shield, which is separated by an insulating material. Their design means that coaxial cables are ideal for carrying high-frequency electrical signals with low losses.

As they feature a shielded design, coaxial cables are much more efficient than copper wires. This, in turn, allows the centre conductor wire to transmit data quickly while being protected from external interference or damage. As a result, these cables don't lose as much speed over longer distances. This is ideal if you live quite far away from the nearest exchange/cabinet.

The technology behind cable broadband packages has improved remarkably in the last few years. As such, cable broadband packages can now provide you with incredibly fast download speeds that easily outstrip those offered by fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) connections.

The exact speeds you'll receive from a cable broadband package will depend on your provider, where you live, the router you use and the exact package you select. However, generally speaking, cable broadband packages tend to compete with the speeds offered by Full Fibre packages.

This means that average download speeds can reach (or even exceed) 1Gbps. This is a remarkable upgrade on a few years ago, when cable packages could only deliver speeds up to 300Mbps.

If cable broadband is available in your area (it's not yet available nationwide), then you'll be able to spot a dedicated provider socket outside your home. This will usually be from Virgin Media.

If a previous tenant or homeowner had chosen a cable broadband package, then you'll find a corresponding master socket within your home. If this is the case, then the cable broadband installation process will be straightforward. All you'll need to do is connect your router to the master socket with the cables provided.

If cable broadband has not previously been installed in your home, then you won't be able to see a master socket. In this scenario, an engineer will need to visit your home and fit one before you can get online.

This engineer will visit your home at an agreed time and will usually drill through the exterior wall. They'll then feed a cable through and connect the main socket to your hub and TV, installing and securing the appropriate cable where needed. At most, the installation process should take three hours.

As of August 2023, Virgin Media continues to dominate the UK's cable broadband infrastructure. Although some small providers do offer cable broadband services, Virgin Media is the number one choice for homes up and down the country.

This is because the company has operated on its own network since it took over the NTL: Telewest network in 2006. Ever since, it has expanded the network rapidly and has brought cable broadband to the masses.

Recently, Virgin Media has also been on a mission to supply the fastest broadband speeds on the market. In fact, the company recently removed many of its slower packages from the market and now pushes customers towards its 1Gbps option, which is faster than the quickest options offered by Sky and BT at the moment.

Virgin Media also often bundles its cable broadband packages with TV and phone services. Although these packages can be rather pricey, they are usually much more cost effective than buying each package separately.

Considering cable broadband? Well, let's take a look at some of the main benefits this form of internet connection can provide:

It's important to remember that not all broadband types are available universally. Sadly, while 95% of homes can receive fibre connections, cable is far less widely available. That said, availability is improving rapidly and Virgin Media now suggests that around 60% of homes in the country can access cable broadband deals.

Thankfully, it's very easy to tell whether your home is eligible for a cable broadband deal. As well as being able to spot the dedicated provider socket outside your home, you can also run a broadband comparison via the widget below. This will show you exactly what deals are available at your address.

As well as showing you whether you're able to receive a cable broadband deal, it will also display which fibre and full fibre packages are available at your home address. This way, you can compare all the available options and easily locate the best one for your needs.

Simply provide us with your postcode and we'll do all the hard work for you.

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Tom is a freelance copywriter and content marketer with over seven years' experience. Originally from an agency background, he is proud to have worked on campaigns for a number of energy providers, comparison sites and consumer brands.

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