What is ADSL broadband?

While fibre broadband is making its way into neighbourhoods around South Africa, ADSL is still the country’s most popular way to connect to the internet. This is mostly because it's so easy to sign up for and requires minimal installation. It’s also a cheaper alternative.

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about ADSL broadband and why it’s a viable option when connecting to the internet.

In This Guide:

What is ADSL broadband?

ADSL is an acronym that stands for “Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line”. It’s a form of internet connection that relies on telephone lines to transmit data. It uses the copper cables that connect from a telephone exchange to your home or office. ADSL can send and receive internet data much faster than a conventional dial-up connection.

How does ADSL broadband work?

When you apply for an ADSL broadband installation, the first step is to add a microfilter plug to your phone connection. This works to separate the frequency of your phone line from that of your broadband connection. This means that you can use the internet while chatting on the phone at the same time.

ADSL requires a special modem to work. Your service provider will supply this modem and set it up for you. For your ADSL to function properly, you will also need to be close to an exchange (typically within a radius of 3 to 4 kilometres).

Almost all the major South African broadband providers offer ADSL and it is by far the most common type of broadband available. Nearly every home in the country can get it and this makes it currently the most popular form of internet connection.

ADSL vs. fibre

At this point, you may be wondering if ADSL is such a viable option when fibre is by far the faster connection type. Despite its slower speeds, ADSL provides a high-quality, reliable connection – it also has the following advantages over fibre:

  • It’s conveniently available in most areas
  • It offers competitive speeds for users that are seeking basic connectivity
  • There are capped and uncapped versions available depending on your needs
  • It’s a cheaper alternative to fibre optic broadband

How can I get ADSL broadband?

ADSL is available to anyone who has access to a telephone line. In South Africa, Telkom is the only service provider that can provide an exchange. There are, however, many ADSL broadband companies that can set you up with the equipment you need as well as the data package that best suits your lifestyle or business.

To get ADSL broadband in your home or office, you’ll need the following:

  • A Telkom line with ADSL service enabled. If you don’t have a Telkom phone line, please contact this service provider directly to get one installed.
  • An ADSL modem or router. If you do not have a modem, you can contact your local ADSL provider to see what they have on offer. 
  • An ADSL data package. When it comes to selecting a data package, you will need to choose between capped or uncapped ADSL.

Capped vs. uncapped 

When deciding on a data package, then it’s good to consider what you will be using it for so that you are getting your money’s worth.  


With a capped connection, you will get a set amount of data per month. If you run out of data, you will have the option to buy more but at a higher price. When you subscribe to an ADSL service, you will be able to choose the initial amount of data that you would like to include in your monthly package.

A capped connection is ideal for low-usage users who do not need to use the internet for massive uploads and downloads.  It’s also an unshaped option, meaning it’s given higher priority on the network and that the connection speed will be faster.


One of the advantages of an uncapped connection is that there is no limit to the amount of data you use per month.  So, you can use the internet at any time without worrying about how much data you’re using.

This type of package is ideal for those who use the internet regularly. It’s also better suited to those who frequently download and upload huge files. The one pitfall with an uncapped connection, however, is that the line speed will vary because it’s given the lowest priority on the network.

How much does it cost? 

ADSL broadband is currently the most popular type of internet service and as such, it’s relatively affordable. Broadband providers also offer many different packages to pick and choose from, so it will be easy to find a solution that’s budget-friendly.

Keep in mind that a capped connection has a slightly more expensive rate per Gigabyte than an uncapped connection (although it’s still a cheaper option if you are not a web-hungry household). An uncapped package, on the other hand, is perfect for those who need a huge amount of data but need to work according to a fixed budget.

Before subscribing to an ADSL package, it’s important that you shop around to compare broadband services and prices. You can compare quotes easily with Money Expert to see who offers a better bang for your buck.

How do I compare quotes? 

A broadband comparison can easily be done when you use our free online comparison tool. All you need to do is complete a quick form and then we will do the shopping for you. We will gather quotes from the best ADSL providers in your area and we will then provide you with the information in an easy to read format. This way, you can make sure that you get the best connection at the best price.

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