ADSL, VDSL & Fibre: What’s the difference?

Signing up for a broadband connection can be a simple process, however, you need to know the kind of connection option you require based on your usage needs. Canstar Blue breaks down the differences between the three most common types of broadband connection options: ADSL, VDSL and Ultra-Fast Broadband.


ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is a type of connection that utilises the frequencies of regular copper phone lines. This has been the primary method of broadband connectivity and is the standard service offering in New Zealand.

As it uses existing copper lines, no special lines need to be installed and therefore it provides a cheaper and more available connection to broadband users.

ADSL Speed

On an ADSL connection, you can expect speeds of up to 20 Mbps for downloads, however, upload speeds are typically limited to 1 Mbps. Internet speeds on ADSL connections vary, depending on the condition of the copper wiring, the distance between your home and the provider’s location, as well as any interference on the line, which includes multiple users on the same connection.

Better speeds are typically available with an ADSL2+ connection, which is a newer generation of ADSL. This type of connection, however, is only available to those living within two kilometres of a telephone exchange.


VDSL (Very high bitrate Digital Subscriber Line) is a newer form of broadband connection that also uses your existing home copper phone lines, but allows users to access the internet at faster speeds than those on an ADSL connection.  This is achieved through a more efficient use of copper lines, with a configuration that shortens the distance that signals need to travel.

Shorter distances mean a more reliable connection and, therefore, a higher amount of available bandwidth.

VDSL Speed

VDSL connections offer speeds that are typically 5x faster for downloads and 10x faster for uploads, compared to ADSL connections. The maximum speed on this type of connection is around 50 Mbps if you live close to the network provider, though line quality and distance from the exchange are still a factor.

Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB)

Ultra-fast broadband, also known as Fibre Internet, bypasses phone lines and uses smaller fibre optic cables with glass conductors instead. Optical fibre uses light as opposed to electricity to carry a signal and so it is able to support faster speeds over longer distances.

Together with laser technology, fibre optic cables transmit and receive vast amounts of data at much higher speeds than traditional copper wires, and are not subject to interference from electrical wires or damage from environmental conditions.

Given its potential to offer high bandwidth, Fibre connections allow for the transmission of a wealth of digital communication and entertainment services.

Getting Fibre broadband to your home requires a new connection to be installed between the road and your home. Expect trenching and drilling to be carried out to your drives and lawns, as well as new wiring in your home.

UFB Speed

Fibre broadband plans offer fixed speeds and does not vary depending on distance or cable quality, like ADSL or VDSL. The Internet connection speeds on a Fibre plan can reach a maximum of 1000 Mbps (or 1 Gbps) for both downloads and uploads, making issues of lag and buffering a thing of the past.

Of course, the cost of your Fibre plan will depend on the connection speed you choose.

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Choosing the right broadband option

When it comes to choosing the right broadband connection option that meets your needs, affordability and availability are key factors to consider.

Given the reliability and speeds available on an ADSL connection, it is best suited to those who are light users of the Internet. For example, those who simply use the Internet to check emails and reading online. VDSL, on the other hand, provides faster download speeds and therefore, is able to withstand consumption of digital media such as streaming music and video.

For households with multiple users on the same network, and those who access to large amounts of data, a Fibre connection is best.

Canstar Blue’s customer satisfaction awards compares broadband service providers in New Zealand, based on a number of factors, including: Value for money, customer service, network performance, flexibility of contract, contract clarity and bill clarity.

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