Surprise! DSL Internet Service Can Be Fast

Fiber to the curb with copper from the curb to your home would provide speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) or more.

by Bradley Mitchell Dec 1, 2018 | Original Lifehacker article here.

A digital subscriber line (DSL) uses existing phone lines to deliver high-speed internet access. DSL provides this access without tying up the phone lines themselves, as dial-up internet connections do. Compared to the performance of cable internet service, DSL speed has lagged a little behind historically. However, the speed of DSL internet connections is increasing as the technology improves and service providers upgrade their network infrastructure.

The DSL speed you could enjoy varies depending on the provider you choose and the packages the provider offers. Even your equipment affects the speed. If you use a wireless router and your computer is located at a distance from the router, you can expect slower speeds. Connecting your computer to the router using an Ethernet wire is much faster, more reliable and more secure.

How Fast Is DSL?

The average DSL internet speed is almost as fast as cable internet connections. However, cable connections are often shared with other users in your vicinity, which slows down the speed. DSL service is not shared with others, so your neighbors’ activity doesn’t affect your speed.

DSL speeds vary widely by package options. If you plan to binge watch a lot of streaming content, you may want the fastest package your provider offers. If you aren’t online 24/7, one of the more affordable, but slower packages may be right for you. Most providers offer a choice of DSL services with different bandwidths.

For example, in late 2018, AT&T offers DSL at

  • One tier of service that delivers speeds up to 5 Mbps
  • Another tier that delivers up to 100 Mbps.

The slower, less expensive plan, works fine for social media, browsing, and email. The faster plan is better suited to gamers and TV binge watchers.

If your locale is wired for fiber optics to the home (FTTH), you can get even faster DLS speeds. Verizon offers packages with 100 Mbps, 300 Mbps, and Gigabit speeds as of late 2018.

Asymmetric DSL (ADSL) is the Norm

Your DSL speed can change depending on how you use the network.

DSL providers often advertise the speed of their service using a combination of two bandwidth numbers: one for download speed and one for upload speed. Check both the download and upload speeds when you are choosing a provider.

Residential DSL services usually provide a faster speed for downloads than for uploads because most customers spend more time downloading activities. This arrangement is called asymmetric DSL (ADSL) service. In ADSL, the download speed is much higher than the upload speed. With symmetric DSL (SDSL), both numbers are the same.

ADSL reaches speeds of 170 Mbps

Many ADSL download speeds at common ISPs range from 14 to 43 Mbps, according to Ookla’s Crosstalk between lines has restricted bandwidth, for one thing.

DSL Speed Differences Between Households

The rated maximum bandwidth of a DSL connection often cannot be reached, and actual speed varies between households. Factors affecting DSL speed include:

  • Quality of the phone line at your residence: Neighborhoods with better copper wiring can achieve faster DSL speeds. Fiber optic lines are even faster.
  • The distance between the hub and home: The length of the phone line between the residence and the phone company hub affects speeds. DSL technology is distance sensitive because its performance decreases as you get farther from the hub.
  • Service glitches: While normally a constant, DSL speed can suddenly drop if the service provider has technical difficulty with its network. Speeds usually return to normal after a few minutes.

Other variables you can control that affect your DSL connection speed include:

  • Misconfigured wires or wireless router: Routers sit between your computer the internet connection. A router that is not functioning properly can limit the DSL speed. Temporarily connecting a computer directly to the internet can help diagnose this situation.
  • Older computer or router: Old computers or routers that lack sufficient processing power or memory cannot keep pace with a high-speed DSL connection. You can verify this problem by comparing the DSL speed between two different computers at your residence and by temporarily connecting a computer directly to the internet (see above).

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) high-speed internet service for homes and businesses competes in many areas of the country with cable and other types of broadband internet services. DSL delivers a broadband network using a copper phone line. Most types of DSL service are asymmetric. All types of DSL internet service can be categorized as either asymmetric or symmetric. The service that is best for you depends on whether you do a lot of streaming or require support for simultaneous voice and video communications.

Asymmetric DSL

Asymmetric types of DSL connections provide more network bandwidth for downloading from the internet service provider to the subscriber’s computer than for uploading in the other direction. By reducing the amount of bandwidth available upstream, service providers are able to offer relatively more bandwidth downstream, which reflects the typical subscriber’s needs.

Asymmetric DSL technology is popular residential DSL service where home internet users predominately use downstream bandwidth.

Common forms of asymmetric DSL include the following:

  • ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) has a downstream rate of up to 8 Mbps and an upstream rate of 384 Kbps. It supports telephone service and data transmission at the same time.
  • ADSL 2+ is a newer version of ADSL that delivers download speeds of up to 20 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 850 Kbps.
  • ADSL Lite or G.Lite is a version of ADSL that offers slower speeds of up to 1 Mbps downstream speed and 512 Kbps upload speed.
  • R-ADSL (Rate-Adaptive Digital Subscriber Line) delivers the same transmission rates as ADSL, but the transmission speed can be adjusted by the modem.
  • VDSL (Very High Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line) is the fastest DSL service. It offers downstream rates of up to 52 Mbps and upstream rates of up to 2.3 Mbps over a single copper wire.

Symmetric DSL

Symmetric types of DSL connections provide equal bandwidth for both uploads and downloads. Symmetric DSL technology is popular for business-class DSL services as companies often have greater needs for transferring data. It is also the technology of choice for simultaneous voice and video communications, which require a high speed in both directions for effective communications.

Common Forms of symmetric DSL include:

  • SDSL (Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line) offers equal upstream and downstream transmission speeds of up to 1.54 Mbps.
  • SHDSL (Symmetrical High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line) is the same technology as SDSL, but the two standards were approved separately. SHDSL was approved by the International Telecommunications Union, and SDSL was approved by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.
  • HSDL (High Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line) was developed in the early 1990s, making it one of the oldest forms of symmetric DSL. HDSL offered data rates up to 2.048 Mbps but required multiple phone lines, which eventually made it obsolete.

Other Types of DSL

  • IDSL (ISDN Digital Subscriber Line) is hybrid DSL/ISDN technology. It was developed along with other types of DSL but is rarely used nowadays due to the relatively low speeds (144 Kbps maximum data rate) it supports. IDSL offers an always-on connection, unlike ISDN.