Monday, September 20, 2010

Broadband Internet Defined defines broadband as "pertaining to or denoting a type of high-speed data transmission in which the bandwidth is shared by more than one simultaneous signal". While this is accurate it isn't very helpful in understanding what the term broadband means, or what broadband internet actually is.

The term broadband internet is used very loosely, and is often synonymous with high-speed internet, cable internet, DSL, or satellite internet access. While these terms are functionally the same in a very broad sense, the internet access industry defines broadband in several ways. Broadband internet access can be looked at by connection speed and communication class.

Connection speeds at or above 200kbps are considered broadband by the Federal Communications Commission, however this definition is outdated and many firms would not consider anything below 1mbps broadband. Almost all high speed internet services offer speeds over 1mbps, and even satellite internet access can beat out 200kbps. Some definitions of broadband require the connection to be "always on". This would mean that cable would always fit into this category, but some ADSL and satellite connections would not. With fiber optic technology on the rise it is possible that the speeds that are considered broadband could change in the near future.

Communication class is another important point to discuss when looking at the differences between standard lines and broadband access. A POTS line, or plain old telephone service, can normally transfer analog data at 29.6kbps when it is being utilized for voice traffic. This speed was fine for voice transmission, but as internet usage began to grow, faster speeds were in great demand. Compression protocol increased the POTS line to around 56kbps, but could not go any faster without additional hardware.

The higher communication class of a broadband connection utilizes more frequencies than a POTS line, allowing for the faster transmission of data. In addition to these added frequencies, broadband internet such as a cable connection simply has more fiber. A coax is a larger line than a POTS line and can carry more data faster. More fiber almost always means faster speeds.

Jon Norwood is a founder and managing partner of the directory Internet Service Providers, a site dedicated to providing information on Internet Service Providers, as well as guides on how to best choose a service.

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