Speed and reliability are the name of the game when using the Internet. Whether you are just surfing the Internet, downloading movies, or playing an online game, you want a fast connection to make your online experience enjoyable. Most people rely on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for their Internet access. Large ISPs in urban areas usually offer several different types of connectivity methods. Thankfully the days of the old dial up connection are fading into history except in some of the more remote areas of the country. Broadband is now the primary Internet access offered by most ISPs. There are different types of broadband, and each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Consumers need to understand the different types of broadband in order to select the type of Internet connectivity that works best for them.
The term broadband generally refers to any high speed Internet connection. There are various types of broadband. Some broadband types are better for home users or small businesses, while others are better suited to large corporations, universities, or government agencies. ISPs in urban areas have a customer base that allows them to build large, multipurpose infrastructures which allows them to offer a wide selection of broadband types. On the other hand, users in sparsely populated areas may only have a choice of one or two broadband types from their smaller, cash strapped ISPs.
The primary broadband Internet connections that are probably within the price range of most home users and small businesses are:
1) Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) – With the proper equipment ISPs are able to utilize existing telephone lines to provide Internet service to their customers. DSL connection speeds can be in the tens or even hundreds of megabits per second (Mbps). One advantage of DSL is that the infrastructure is already in place since most homes have an existing telephone line connected to them. The DSL does not interfere with telephone calls, and users can be surfing the Internet and making a phone call at the same time without a problem.
2) Cable Internet – Most cable companies are able to provide their customers with broadband Internet access. By using a cable modem customers can access the Internet over their cable company’s high bandwidth television cable. Cable Internet can be very fast, and it can match or even exceed the speed of a DSL line. Many cable companies offer package deals for customers that allow them to bundle Internet broadband, cable television, and phone lines into a single, lower priced bill.
3) Wireless Broadband (WiBB) – Cellular phone companies have gotten into the wireless Internet service provider (WISP) business, and they now offer wireless broadband Internet access. Wireless broadband can come in two types; fixed and mobile. In a typical fixed wireless broadband scenario, a small business or homeowner must attach a dish antennae on the roof or side of their building or house. The dish is then pointed at the WISP’s transmitter to make the Internet broadband connection. For mobile broadband connectivity, customers will need to install a receiver in their computer or tablet that contains a small antennae. Customers will then have instant Internet access as long as they are within range of one of their WISP’s transmission towers. A disadvantage of wireless broadband is that it requires line of sight, and obstructions such as buildings, trees, or weather can interrupt or slow down their Internet connection.
4) Wi-Fi – Although technically a form of wireless broadband, Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, has become very popular with the smartphone and laptop crowd. Many businesses and homeowners have set up small networks using a wireless modem. These Wi-Fi hotspots allow users to connect to the Internet via the provided wireless network. A Wi-Fi may or may not require a password depending on the settings configured by the network administrator. Many small businesses such as cafes or coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi access as an enticement to draw in new customers. It should be noted that Wi-Fi’s have traditionally had weak encryption capabilities, and consequently users should be wary of conducting financial transactions when using a public Wi-Fi.
5) Satellite Broadband – For those users in more isolated areas of the world, some ISPs offer satellite broadband. This type of broadband is similar to fixed wireless broadband in that the customer will need a receiver dish at their location which is pointed at the ISP’s satellite. Although slower than some of the other types of broadband, it may be the only option for some users. An annoying disadvantage of satellite broadband is the lag time it takes for a signal to be transmitted from the satellite to the receiver. This lag time may be more noticeable when playing multi-user online games or conducting video conferencing.
Although there are other types of Internet broadband access such as Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), fiber optics, or Ethernet, they are more suited to medium to large businesses. The broadband types listed above will serve most users. Selecting the best broadband Internet access method is not hard, but it does take a little studying on the part of the consumer. Armed with the knowledge above, you are now equipped to make a decision that will allow you to select the type of broadband that will work best for you.