The Differences between ADSL service providers (“the options and pitfalls in your choice of provider”)

When choosing your ADSL supplier, I recommend that you consider the following factors which differentiate provider offerings:


Factor for consideration



Downstream bitrate

4          Various bitrates are available from 1 Mbit/s to 25 Mbit/s (ADSL2+).

4          Make sure that you can get the bitrate you require for your current needs, but that there is also scope to upgrade to a higher bitrate later.

4          Check the terms for an upgrade.

Upstream bitrate

4          Make sure that the upstream bitrate is sufficient to meet your needs

4          There may be an option to upgrade the upstream bitrate


4          Usually an option – maybe at extra charge

4          May be required be gamers and others requiring rapid PING time response (i.e. low latency)

ADSL2+ standard supported?

4          The ADSL2+ or ADSL2 standard is required for speeds above 8 Mbit/s – up to 25 Mbit/s

4          It is advisable to purchase one of the most modern DSL modems – one supporting the ADSL2+ standard as well as straight-forward ADSL

4          If your provider supports ADSL2+ then the door is open for an easy upgrade at a later date speeds up to 24 Mbit/s as may be required for video-on-demand, IP-TV and HDTV (high definition television)

Geographical service coverage

4          Very few ADSL service providers are able to provide nationwide coverage

4          Check that you are within the coverage area of your preferred supplier (this ‘pre-qualification’ is typically carried out by the supplier as part of his order process)

Monthly charges for connection

4          Check that you understand the supplier’s tariffs and commercial conditions.

4          Sometimes the monthly subscription includes a flatrate charge for unlimited data volume, sometimes data volume charges are extra.

Data volume charges – flatrate?

4          Data volume charges might be per MB (Megabyte)

4          There may be a fixed charge for all volume up to a given GB (Gigabyte) volume per month

4          There may be a ‘flatrate’ charge for unlimited data volume

4          Some providers also make charges related to the time duration during which the line was connected – though increasingly these charges are disappearing in favour of ‘always on’ connections and flatrate tariffs.

Quality of Service (QOS)

4          The quality of service (QOS) provided by different ADSL providers can vary greatly.

4          It is difficult to assess the quality you will receive in advance or from their website.

4          Of course, all providers promise high quality

4          But they differ greatly in the network capacity they provide in their backhaul/backbone networks – the part of their network linking your local ADSL connection to the public Internet itself

4          It is common for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and ADSL providers to provide their backhaul capacity according to an average peak hour kbit/s data rate per customer connection (e.g. 20 kbit/s per customer). This is equivalent to an ‘overbooking’ factor on 1 Mbit/s lines of 50 – there is only 1 Mbit/s of ‘backhaul’ capacity to the Internet for every 50 customer 1 Mbit/s ADSL connections.

4          The higher the ‘overbooking factor’ applied by the ADSL service provider, the slower your Internet connection will respond at times of peak traffic loading.

4          To get some idea of a provider’s QOS level before you order his service, you may like to consult the published statistics of your national telecommunications regulator.

4          Most national regulators force ADSL service providers (as well as all other telecommunications service providers) to publish statistics on QOS – including waiting time to installation, service QOS and responsiveness to fault handling

Forced release every 24 hours?

4          Many ADSL service providers conduct a ‘forced release’ of each ADSL connection every 24 hours

4          If an application is running at the time of the forced release it may be temporarily disturbed as the connection is re-established

4          To mitigate the problem you may choose to manually set up the first ‘always on’ connection sometime in the very early morning – or at another period of very low usage

DSL modem choice and price

4          The range of DSL modems and the prices offered may vary greatly from one provider to another

4          Equipment developed by companies in the country of operation may be better optimised for local network conditions than the offerings of international equipment and router providers such as Cisco

4          More on DSL modem features you might need...

Fixed IP address

4          Most ADSL providers allocate IP addresses on a ‘dynamic’ basis. This means that your IP address is assigned to you each time you re-establish the connection. For the duration of your connection your IP address is unique and only available for your use, although from time to time, your IP address assignment may change

4          A fixed IP (Internet protocol) address may be beneficial when distributed servers or roaming users at other locations have to access your site

4          A fixed IP address may also be beneficial as a reliable means of identifying your site to other locations, servers or applications for security purposes (though the fixed IP address is not a ‘guarantee of identity’)

Port restrictions

4          In order to restrict certain types of usage of your ADSL connection (this can have performance and security benefits in some cases), your ADSL service provider may restrict the use of certain port numbers.

4          If you require to use any exotic data protocols or applications, check that the relevant port numbers are permitted.

Peer-to-peer usage restrictions

4          Although many ADSL service providers claim ‘flatrate’ tariffs, some are not keen on customers who use their connections at their maximum bitrates for prolonged periods of time (e.g. for permanent peer-to-peer data exchanges or data distribution).

4          Some operators reserve the right (in their terms and conditions) to cancel your service and remove your ADSL connection or migrate you to a different tariff or service.

4          If you intend heavy ‘peer-to-peer’ usage it may be prudent to check this with the service provider upfront.

Hosting package/email included?

4          Many ADSL service porviders include a web hosting package including your own Internet domain name (e.g. as part of your ADSL subscription.

4          This often includes software tools, email accounts and an anti-virus software subscription.

4          But do not pay extra for this if you don’t need it.

4          Always compare the direct cost of an anti-virus subscription with the annual charges quoted on the websites of the major providers (e.g. Norton Antivirus).

Installation and other one-time charges

4          Installation and one-off charges (including postage costs for sending you the splitter and/or DSL modem) can be significant.

Contract lock-in period

4          Many ADSL service providers offer terms including no installation charge – but at the cost of a 12 month or 24 month minimum contract commitment.


4          Do the commercial terms allow an upgrade or downgrade of your bitrate at no charge?

Installation assistance and service

4          Does your provider have a 24 hour telephone hotline to assist you when you can’t get things to work?

4          Is the hotline free or what are the charges for this assistance?