Byte Me Article 107 – Broadband to satisfy our need for speed

Broadband to satisfy our need for speed
– Connections Explained

19 January, 2013

Broadband!!! – 20 years ago that would have been a scruntchy or some other form of women’s hair attire!  Now it is referred to almost every day when we talk about computers and their connection to the Internet.  Broadband is a catch cry mostly for the speed at which we connect a computer to the Internet.

Before broadband, the first popular types of Internet connections were based on dial-up modems – the same technology as a standard fax machine.  Our copper phone line would carry the dial-up signal as sounds just like the screeching that you hear from a fax.  The dial-up modem would decipher these sounds and recreate digital information from it.  The result was access to the Internet for the masses – although at very slow speed.

2013-01-19 Byte Me Article 107 - Connections Explained

These connection speeds were rated in Kilobits per second (Kbps) of data transfer and the fastest speed possible was 56Kbps (yes it sounds fast but this is just a trickle by today’s standards).  Around 14 years ago someone discovered that the current copper phone lines could also support a very high frequency signal carrying individual packets of information.  This is a communication technology known as ADSL although it quickly also became referred to as Broadband.

Using ADSL and a suitable modem – again to decipher the different signal, speeds of around 1500Kbps were achievable.  It is already around 6 years ago that ADSL2+ was launched in Australia using even more refined technologies to ramp up the connections speeds to a maximum of 24000Kbps (yes around 430 times as fast as dial-up)!

Other forms of ‘broadband’ have also sprung up – such as Wireless Internet, Satellite, Cable and more recently optic fibre.  All of these technologies have been lumped into the ‘broadband’ category as they all exceed the speed of the original dial-up connections.

Many people get confused with the differences but for the moment the best connections in Rockhampton are still through copper phones using ADSL2+.  Wireless connections such as 3G and 4G are further back in the speed and reliability stakes but have been catching up.

The new National Broadband Network has already commenced construction in Rockhampton and should be completed in the next year or so using fibre optic cables to replace the existing copper phone lines.  Fibre optic promises connection speeds that should be stable and constant at 100000Kbps (a whopping 1785 times faster than dial-up).  This is certainly broadband in its broadest context, but why do we need these speeds?

The speeds promised by the NBN will enable us to teleconference from our homes, download high definition movies in just 2 minutes and network computers that are in separate geographical locations as though they were sitting next to each other in the same room.  It would have been hard to imagine that these connection speeds were ever going to be possible when dial-up first came out. 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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