Hello everyone, we’re going to talk about three different internet access technologies. So we’re going to discuss the difference between broadband cable, DSL, and fiber. So let’s start with broadband cable.
1: Broadband cable
Now cable internet is a high-speed access technology that uses a cable modem with an attached coaxial cable which provides a link to the internet service provider. Broadband cable is typically provided by the same provider that provides cable television to their customers. And because it’s provided by cable television providers, broadband cable leverages the existing infrastructure from cable TV to cover large geographical areas especially here in the United States.
Today if you want broadband cable, your provider offers different packages that vary in speed. So for example I use the broadband cable from Xfinity and they offer download speeds anywhere from 25 Mbits/s up to 400 Mbits/s. So if you were to order cable internet for your home, your cable internet provider would send you a modem, or typically they would send you a modem with a Wi-Fi router combo, which is often referred to as a gateway. And this device would be a modem with a built-in switch and Wi-Fi router all in one. So when you receive this modem from your ISP, you would attach a coaxial cable that’s routed into your home, and then you would attach it to the back of the device.
The modem is what brings the internet into your home and the switch and the Wi-Fi router are so that you can connect multiple wired and wireless devices, such as computers, laptops, tablets, to the modem to give them internet access. And that’s it, now cable does have a downside and that’s because you, along with the other homes in your neighborhood, will all have to share a pool of bandwidth that’s been provided by your cable provider in your area.
So what that means is that during peak hours of surfing the internet or streaming or downloading, you may experience a slowdown in your internet speed. And that’s because the people in your neighborhood are all using the internet bandwidth.
DSL stands for a digital subscriber line. DSL is another popular technology that is used by homes and businesses to access broadband data over the internet. DSL can carry both voice and data at the same time over phone lines. It has a DSL modem like this one here, that uses common telephone lines to carry its data. And because DSL uses phone lines, you don’t want to confuse DSL with the older and painfully slow dial-up connection which also uses phone lines.
DSL is a high-speed connection that is much faster than the ancient dial-up connections. And with DSL you can go on the internet and talk on the phone at the same time, unlike a dial-up connection where you can only do one at a time. Now DSL is not as fast as cable but it is cheaper. And also with DSL, you don’t have to share bandwidth with your neighborhood as cable does. Everyone using DSL has a dedicated connection. It’s not a shared line. And DSL is more widely available than cable because it uses common telephone lines which are nearly everywhere.
Now the speed of DSL can vary depending on where you live. But on average, they offer download speeds anywhere from 5 Mbits/s up to 100 Mbits/s. And just like cable, when you order DSL through a provider, they will also send you a DSL modem Wi-Fi router combo. But instead of attaching a coaxial cable, you would plug a typical phone line with a phone jack to the back of a DSL modem. Now there are a few different forms of DSL. And one is called ADSL which stands for asymmetric digital subscriber line.
Now, this is called asymmetric because the download speed is considerably faster than the upload speed. This type of DSL is mainly used in homes because home users typically download a lot more than upload. And ADSL is the cheapest form of DSL And there’s also SDSL which stands for symmetric digital subscriber line. And this, as the name implies, the download and upload speeds are the same. And this type of DSL is typically used in businesses. And finally, there’s VDSL which stands for very high bit DSL. And this is a fast form of DSL that also runs over copper wire. And because it uses copper wire it’s only made for short distances. For long distances, it can also use fiber optic cable. VDSL is roughly three times faster than ADSL.
And finally, there’s fiber internet. Fiber offers the fastest internet speeds available today. It has download and upload speeds of 1000 Mbits/s, so it’s very fast. And the reason why it’s so fast is that it uses light to send data running through fiber optic cable. And fiber optic cable is what’s already used as the backbone of the internet.
And in addition to the benefit of the faster speed, fiber can also travel much longer distances than DSL or cable. And this is because DSL and cable transmit data using electricity over copper cable and signals in a copper cable can be affected by electromagnetic interference as it travels which can weaken the signal, especially over a long distance. But fiber uses light to transmit its data and it transmits it over a thin glass cable which makes it less vulnerable to interference.
So as you might have guessed, fiber is more expensive than DSL or cable and fiber is relatively new compared to DSL or cable. The infrastructure is not there yet. So fiber may not be available in many locations.