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Is Broadband the same as Wi-Fi?

Published date: July 2023

Girl on her laptop at home
Most homes and businesses have both Broadband and Wi-Fi in operation, yet it isn't commonly known if they are the same and how they may be different.
In simple terms, they are not the same as your Wi-Fi provides the wireless connection between different devices and the router. Broadband is the constant connection to your premises which has been set up by your internet service provider.

However, it’s not just specific technology that defines Broadband. For instance, Ofcom defines broadband by speed as 10Mbps for download and 1Mbps for upload is considered to be Broadband.

Key differences between Broadband and Wi-Fi

  • Constant internet connection to your home, available at high speeds
  • Connecting devices to the internet (usually 3-4), depending on your modem’s LAN ports
  • No authentication system
  • Broadband is reliant on Fibre or copper networks to operate

  • A wireless connection from different devices to the router, via radio waves
  • Wirelessly connecting multiple devices to the router for internet access
  • Passwords plus extra layers of authentication ensure limited access to a Wi-Fi network
  • Wi-Fi is reliant on Broadband to operate

Your Broadband is the direct connection between your home and the internet. Your router or modem acts as the signal receiver and connects to the internet provided by your ISP. This link provides a 24/7 wireless Broadband connection to your home or business. However, it’s important to remember Broadband can come in many different forms. Here are the 4 types of broadband that are available in the UK.
  • ADSL uses the original copper wires found in phone lines already present in most UK homes. However, this service is being retired in December 2025, so it's important to switch to a Fibre Broadband service to keep your home connected.
  • Fibre optic Broadband transmits signals using thin plastic or glass cables instead of copper, which provides far greater speeds. However, availability is not guaranteed across the UK just yet. To find out if your home can have Fibre Broadband, you can check here with your postcode.
  • Satellite broadband is typically only used in rural areas where copper or fibre cables have not yet been installed. The connection is provided by stationary satellites, which makes the service more expensive than ADSL and fibre but can offer similar speeds.
  • Mobile services like 4G and 5G allows you to gain internet access with a wireless Broadband set-up. The same signal your mobile phone receives is used by the router, which has a SIM card inserted. Mobile Broadband can be faster than ADSL in regions with strong 4G and 5G coverage, but rural areas will likely receive a slower comparable speed.

Advantages and disadvantages of Wi-Fi

  • Authentication and passwords increase the layers of security
  • Usually, a single router can provide consistent Wi-Fi across an entire home
  • Multiple devices can connect at the same time
  • A wireless connection makes for minimal wires to provide Wi-Fi

  • Public Wi-Fi can be vulnerable to hackers, affecting those using the network
  • The typical range of 150 metres may leave some larger homes needing Wi-Fi Plus to boost the signal
  • Wired ethernet connections are generally faster than wireless connections
  • The bandwidth of the network is shared as more devices connect

Advantages and disadvantages of Fibre Broadband

Fibre Broadband in comparison to ADSL, the traditional Broadband network

  • Faster Speeds - It is significantly faster than traditional Broadband, which typically offers speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 100Mbps. Fibre reaches up to 1GBps.
  • Better reliability - Fibre-optic cables are immune to electromagnetic interference and other signal-degrading factors. Fibre is less prone to outages and dropouts and can carry data over longer distances without any signal loss.
  • Improved streaming and gaming - Users can play online games and watch high-definition videos without buffering or lagging. This is because fibre-optic cables have a much higher bandwidth capacity than traditional Broadband cables, allowing multiple data streams to be transmitted simultaneously. 
  • Enhanced security - As Fibre doesn’t radiate electromagnetic signals, it’s much harder for hackers to intercept or tap into the transmitted data. 

  • Typically higher costs - Fibre costs more to install than traditional Broadband and the cost of upgrading the existing network infrastructure to support Fibre can also have a higher cost.
  • Availability – Currently, Fibre cannot be guaranteed to every household across the UK, especially in rural and remote locations. 
  • Lack of compatibility - Some older devices may need to be compatible, for example, older routers may not be able to handle the high speeds offered by Fibre Broadband.
  • Fragility under construction - Due to how small and compact the fibre optic cable is, they are susceptible to becoming cut or damaged during installation/construction/renovation activities nearby your home or business. 

The traditional ASDL network is retiring in 2025 for all UK homes and businesses, so to stay connected you need to switch to Full-Fibre Broadband. 

Explore our climate-positive Broadband that's full fibre, unlimited and has member discounts here


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What is the difference between broadband and Wi-Fi?

While both terms are related to internet access, they represent different parts of the process:
  • Broadband: This refers to the high-speed internet connection that comes into your home or business, usually through a copper cable, fibre optic cable, or satellite connection. 
  • Wi-Fi: This refers to the wireless network created within your home or business using a router. This network allows your devices to connect to the internet wireless

Why is it important to understand the difference between Broadband and Wi-Fi?

Understanding the difference helps when you are troubleshooting internet issues:
  • Slow internet: If your internet is slow, it could be due to an issue with your broadband connection (e.g., cable outage, signal interference) or a problem with your Wi-Fi network (e.g., router malfunction, weak signal).
  • No internet: If you have no internet access, it could be due to a broadband outage or a problem with your router not broadcasting the Wi-Fi signal properly.

Do I need both broadband and Wi-Fi?

Yes, you need both to access the internet wirelessly on your devices.
  • Your broadband will establish the internet connection to your home.
  • Your Wi-Fi connects your devices (laptops, phones, smart TVs) to the internet wirelessly or using a plug-in ethernet cable.

Can I use the internet without Wi-Fi?

Yes, you can still access the internet without Wi-Fi, but you'll need to connect your device directly to the broadband source using an ethernet cable. This wired connection typically offers a more stable and reliable internet connection compared to Wi-Fi.

What if I don't have Wi-Fi, but I have broadband?

You can still connect one device to the internet using an ethernet cable plugged directly into your broadband router. However, you won't be able to connect other devices wirelessly without setting up a wireless Wi-Fi network.
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