The world of technology is evolving at a dizzying rate. We hear new buzzwords all the time and sometimes it is difficult to keep track. Like superfast broadband - what exactly is that? Surprisingly perhaps, the superfast component is more than just marketing hype. But before you make any purchase decisions, hereís a quick guide to what it involves and, crucially, whether itís worth having.

What is Superfast Broadband?

A faster internet service than most of us have at the moment would be a simple way of putting it! Currently most subscribers can expect 12 Mbps (thatís how engineers measure data transfer) while superfast broadband is up to 300 Mbps.

Why Do We Need It?

More and more of us are using web-based services such as BBC iPlayer to view TV programmes and films. Superfast broadband allows these services to be streamed without any glitches or delays, as well as making sure more conventional web browsing and downloading is smooth. This essentially means that Skyping your son in Australia should be free from buffering and your grandson should have no delays when he is playing that online computer game.

How Does it Work?

There are two technologies in use at the moment. The really fast services use cables containing fibre optics (up to around 150 Mbps), whilst a slower service called ADSL2+ uses conventional phone lines (up to 24 Mbps).

Who Supplies the Technology?

Most of the major telecommunication companies offer superfast connections. BT Infinity is well known through its TV advertising, as is Plusnet, Virgin and Talktalk. Sky broadband deals are also worth investigating, regardless of whether or not you want a TV service.

Is The Technology Available Everywhere?

Unfortunately not. It depends where you live, with rural areas often having no service at all. The service is currently being rolled out across the UK however, and most cities now have a choice of provider.

Any Issues to Watch Out For?

The actual speed you get will depend on several factors outside your control, such as your distance away from the exchange, the condition of the lines and wiring (if you opt for ADSL2+) and how many others in the neighbourhood are using the line. (Your actual speed will also depend too on how many others in your house are trying to watch different things at any one time!)

How Do I Choose a Service?

It is really worth opting for an unlimited data package, as it is all too easy to exceed any limit and incur penalties. Other than that, it is important to decide what elements you need (phone, TV, broadband) and look at what is on offer.

Hopefully this has helped clarify the main issues of superfast broadband. It looks set to become another new technology that will be a regular part of our lives. Until the next big thing, that is.

Image by Wilson Afonso, used under Creative Commons license.