Types of Broadband Internet Access

I remember when I first connected to the Internet I used a 56Kbps modem over the phone line. Back then, that was considered fast as many users were using 14.4Kbps or 288Kbps modems. Since then, however, the Internet has evolved and so has the connection methods.

In this post I explain broadband, and the various types of options available to a home user. This post will not touch on all options, but it will explain the types of connections currently common today.

What is Broadband?

The term “broadband” is a common term you here when discussing an Internet connection. Up until the last few years, most people used modems over a phone line that would download data at a rate of up to 56kbps. Back then the World Wide Web was made up of mainly static HTML pages and nothing more than that.

Today, the Web has become more of a social and multimedia medium than just plain static HTML pages. This is one of the reasons people are switching to broadband or high-speed Internet connections. Broadband includes those connections that are faster than dialup, and are typically faster than 512Kbps (kilobits per second).

When researching a broadband provider, you may notice that the provider displays both a download speed and upload speed. You may also notice that the download speed is much faster than upload, mainly because a subscriber will download more than they upload. The speeds are usually expressed in kilobits-per-second (Kbps) or megabits-per-second (Mbps). To get the speed of the connection in bytes, divide the bits-per-second value by 8. For example, if the provider indicates the download speed as 640Kbps, then the speed in bytes is 80KBps (kilobytes-per-second) or 640,000 bits divided by 8.

There are many types of broadband available to you, and I will explain a few of the types in this post.

ADSL

The name ADSL is an acronym for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. This type of connection uses the existing phone lines in your house to provide high-speed Internet access. The speed of ADSL connections can support 1.5 to 8Mbps for downloads, and 16 to 640Kbps for uploads.

Besides the increase in speed, the difference between an ADSL connection and the standard dialup is the fact that ADSL does not tie up your phone line. This means that you can connect to the Internet and use the phone at the same time.

One disadvantage to ADSL is that it is a distance sensitive type of connection. The farther you are from the provider’s central office, the weaker the signal and the slower the connection. Subscribers close to the provider will experience the fastest connections.

Cable

As mentioned earlier, when people originally connected to the Internet, they used modems and their phone line. Cable companies then became involved in Internet access and began offering much faster connections than dialup could.

Cable Internet connections are very speedy when compared to dialup. The speed of these connections can range any where from 512Kbps to 20Mbps download, and can match the upload speeds of ADSL connections. I currently use cable broadband for my Internet connection, and the advertised speed from my provider is 10Mbps download and 640Kbps upload.

The one drawback to cable is the fact that the line is shared by all cable subscribers in your neighbourhood. This means that during peak hours, the Internet connection can be considerably slower, but still faster than dialup.

Satellite

For many people in rural communities, it can be hard to find a broadband service provider. For those in such a situation you may be able to get broadband through satellite.

The same satellite dish for television is also used for Internet access. There are two systems used by satellite: one-way and two-way. In a one-way system data is downloaded via the satellite but uploaded via a dialup phone line. For a two-way system, both downloads and uploads are handled by the satellite.

Satellite broadband is more expensive than either ADSL or cable, but may be the only alternative for those living in rural areas.

As with satellite television, satellite broadband may also be affected by bad weather which could increase the latency of your connection.

Wireless (WiFi)

Wireless is becoming more popular in home networks with more affordable wireless routers and adapter cards. You may already have heard about wireless hotspots in some of the larger cities, which allows you to connect to the Internet through a wireless connection in the city.

Internet speeds over a wireless connection can reach 30Mbps or higher, which makes it a very fast connection. One of the downsides with a wireless connection, as always, is that of security, since data is downloaded and uploaded using radio waves.

Wireless broadband is fairly new, so there are not many hotspots available for use, but the number is growing.

Summary

Broadband is a high-speed Internet connection that allows users to download and upload at speed many times faster than traditional dialup. There are several types of broadband available to home users including ADSL, cable, satellite, and wireless. Each type has it’s plus and minuses, however, it is important to weigh what options are available to you and choose one that provides the service you need at the right price.

PG

About Paul Salmon

Paul Salmon is the founder of Technically Easy. He is a an experienced PC user, and enjoys solving computer-related problems that he encounters on a regular basis.

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Networking, Technology

3 Comments

  1. Posted March 25, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    There are various types of internet service providers available in the market to choose from. But make sure to choose what’s the best provider so in the end you’ll not regret.

  2. Saif270
    Posted January 15, 2008 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Really great explanation. Expect a trackback real soon. A lot of my readers will find this stuff useful.

  3. Posted January 10, 2008 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    A really good explanation of connecting to the internet, didn’t notice anything about wep and wpa security on wireless connections though – think alot of people don’t know about this.

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    I am Paul Salmon, an avid technology fanatic who is always learning new things. My goal is to inform and help others with technology.

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