The broadband landscape in Ireland has changed a lot over the past 12 months. ‘Real’ fiber broadband is expanding rapidly across the country, while the availability of options such as wireless, 5G and satellite has increased.
Obviously, some people are still stuck in the broadband slow lane. What should you think about those who have a choice? Do you need fiber? Can you afford the latest satellite option? Here’s a guide to the current options, ranked in order of preference.
1. ‘Royal’ fiber
Specific cost: €40 per month
Specific Speed: 500mbs
Choose because: it’s easily the best
gold standard. Wherever possible, try to get this type of broadband. It is the most reliable and fastest. With the exception of Virgin (which is starting to swap its cable network for fiber), all the main operators (EIR, Vodafone, Sky and others) sell it. However, less than half of the households in the country have access to it.
As you may know, when you’re looking at it, it’s often called ‘Fiber to the Home’ (which, in turn, is shortened to ‘FTTH’). This means that a real fiber line comes into your home. There is no asterisk or qualification or small print to explain that it is a few fiber lines miles away that connect to your existing telephone line.
This is important to understand because there has been a great deal of confusion over the years, when Earr incorrectly labeled its phoneline broadband product ‘eFiber’ when it is actually your home phone line that is elsewhere in your area. Connecting to fiber line.
2. Broadband Cable
Specific cost: €40 to €60 per month
Specific Speed: 250Mbs upwards
Choose because: This is the only high-speed option in many cities.
If you need high-speed broadband and have cable available in your home while ‘real’ fiber doesn’t, switch to that. No one on the market comes close to a traditional phone line or cable for wireless broadband speed and quality.
For most people living in cities over the past 15 years, cable broadband has been the only real option for high-speed service. And there’s only one company selling it: Virgin Media.
Until last year, Eir hadn’t laid out any properly fast broadband, assuming the old phone lines were good enough. (They weren’t, and now Eir is working to upgrade city homes to fiber.)
3.Phone Line Broadband
Specific cost: €30 to €35 per month
Specific Speed: 5Mbs to 150Mbs depending on ‘line quality’
Choose because: In areas where it has good service, it is often the cheapest.
Is there any case to switch to regular phoneline broadband? Yes, if the region you are in has upgraded since the last time you signed up for a broadband package. If you can get speeds in excess of 100Mbs, phoneline broadband can sometimes be the cheapest available option, especially within a bundle.
Otherwise, these days phoneline broadband is the third tier of choice – sometimes even in the fourth tier. But many people using this service do not have much choice.
Speed and quality vary depending on where you are. You will need to ‘test your line’ to see how far you are from the telecom box called ‘cabinet’ or ‘exchange’. Most lines can get speeds in excess of 30Mbs, but that’s too basic for a family need.
4. Fixed Wireless Broadband
Specific cost: €35 to €60 per month
Specific Speed: 15Mbs to 100Mbs
Choose because: In rural areas it’s better than terrible phoneline broadband
For a large number of people in rural areas and small towns, this is the best option available. This could be you if you’re one of the more than 500,000 Irish households in the National Broadband Plan (NBP), which is considered the answer to the dreaded, almost non-existent phoneline broadband.
Fixed wireless broadband usually includes a small box or antenna mounted on the roof of your home. It connects wirelessly to a mast via ‘line of sight’ which is usually within a few kilometers of your home. The speed depends on how far you are from the mast and how many other people are using the service at the same time.
5. 4G and 5G ‘Mobile Broadband’
Specific cost: €30 to €50 per month
Specific Speed: 10Mbs to 100Mbs
Choose because: In areas with good mobile signal, it’s easy and competitively priced
Mobile broadband has evolved from the ‘dongles’ of ten years ago. Today, there are few areas that can support a reasonably functioning home broadband setup with speeds of up to 150Mbs over 4G or 5G via a home broadband router. The main caveat is mobile reception: If you’re in an area with weak 4G or 5G signals, this isn’t a realistic option.
However, it’s not uncommon for an area to have a usable 4G signal in excess of 30Mbs when nothing else is available between a plain old phone line and a fixed wireless mast for thousands. You can maximize the mobile reception available in your area by installing a booster on your roof to get the best, fastest possible signal. (Although this sometimes costs up to €1,000 extra if done through certified suppliers.)
Specific cost: €100 per month
Specific Speed: 100Mbs to 150Mbs
Choose because: you have no other choice
This is the first year that Starlink, a branch of Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, is available in Ireland. With consistently over 100Mbs of speed, Starlink is faster than most fixed wireless services and on par with the best 4G and 5G services. The big downside is the cost.
Starlink is by far the most expensive broadband option that you can opt for. It costs €100 per month on top of the hefty €500 set-up cost.