Types of Broadband Connections

One of the first things you need for the ability to stream is an internet connection with at least a 1mbps upload or throughput ability. There are several options for setting up high-speed services, which all come under the broadband umbrella. However, the type of broadband service you need and have access to will be determined by your speed requirements, budget, and the location (city or regional) of your home or office. All of the broadband connections listed below have the option of providing a 1 mbps upload speed. Check with your ISP (Internet Service Provider) for your upload or throughput speed.

ADSL Is the most commonly installed variety of DSL. The data throughput of consumer DSL services typically ranges from 256
 kbit/s to 20 Mbit/s in the direction to the customer (downstream), depending on DSL technology, line conditions, and service-level implementation. In ADSL, the data throughput in the upstream direction, (i.e. in the direction to the service provider) is lower than that in the downstream direction (i.e. to the customer), hence the designation of asymmetric. With a symmetric digital subscriber line (SDSL), the downstream and upstream data rates are equal.

Very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line (VDSL or VHDSL, ITU G.993.1) Is a digital subscriber line (DSL) standard approved in 2001 that provides data rates up to 52 Mbit/s downstream and 16 Mbit/s upstream over copper wires and up to 85 Mbit/s down- and upstream on coaxial cable. VDSL is capable of supporting applications such as high-definition television, as well as telephone services (voice over IP) and general Internet access, over a single physical connection.

VDSL2 (ITU-T G.993.2) is a second-generation version and an enhancement of VDSL. Approved in February 2006, it is able to provide data rates exceeding 100 Mbit/s simultaneously in both the upstream and downstream directions. However, the maximum data rate is achieved at a range of about 300 meters and performance degrades as distance and loop attenuation increases.

Cable The fiber networks that bring you cable TV at home can be more than an addition to your viewing options - it can also be your means to fast Internet access.

HFC (hybrid fibre-coaxial) networks that are used to carry cable TV pictures are also capable of carrying data at very high rates. The current cable TV signal doesn't take up all of the available bandwidth, because these cable networks were designed to carry a digital TV signal, rather than the current analog signal - and this spare bandwidth can also be used to carry Internet data.

However, people who live in blocks of flats or apartments may face additional difficulties. If cable isn't already installed in your building, getting it installed requires the cooperation of the body corporate or building manager.

Even in buildings where cable is already installed, depending on the type of equipment in place in your building, you may not be able to use cable as an Internet connection.

Unlike DSL a cable service is "shared". This means all subscribers on a given neighborhood or node [a connection point] share a fixed amount of bandwidth. In theory the more people connected to a node, the slower it takes to download information off the Internet. In other words, a node accessed by only 250 people will generally provide a faster service than a node with 2,000 users.

Cable companies have tricks to get around this. One of the cable operators tricks is to scale its network (where more connection points are added) to suit the number of customers in a particular area of the network. Adding more connection points means they are able to rebalance the network so that customers in all areas of the network are receiving equal performance levels. Scaling the network is also known as "Node Grooming" and the cable companies say they carry out node grooms regularly.

Once the cable is installed, you'll need a cable modem to get connected. This connects at one end to the cable, and at the other end to your PC, either through an Ethernet or a USB connection. Cable modems can transfer data at theoretical speeds of up to 3Mbps. However, because cable is a shared medium with many other users on the same line, performance varies with the amount of subscribers using that particular stretch of bandwidth, as well as the usage patterns.

Most cable modems use Ethernet connections, and the cable company will be happy to sell you a network card as part of the installation if you don't already have one. (In fact, they prefer you to use the card they sell you, because they know it works well with the modem, even though - in theory - the modem should work with any card.) When the cable connection is installed, the technician will also load the required software on your PC. Software is available for all versions of Windows and for Mac OS, but not all providers have Mac software, so it's worth checking before you order. While there is no official support, it is theoretically possible to connect under Linux.

Most cable modems use Ethernet connections, and the cable company will be happy to sell you a network card as part of the installation if you don't already have one. (In fact, they prefer you to use the card they sell you, because they know it works well with the modem, even though - in theory - the modem should work with any card.) When the cable connection is installed, the technician will also load the required software on your PC. Software is available for all versions of Windows and for Mac OS, but not all providers have Mac software, so it's worth checking before you order. While there is no official support, it is possible to connect under Linux.

Many operators use a cable modem that is compliant with the DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standard, which is the most common standard used worldwide. DOCSIS is an open standard, and any manufacturer can make modems that support it.

Cable download speeds are very fast, but, as usual, this can depend a great deal on the source from which the files are being downloaded. Ping times are also very fast, which is a boon for online games. However, as with the rest of the Internet, performance varies depending on the time of day and several other factors, such as the number of subscribers on the specific bandwidth strand.

Satellite Satellite is often touted as an alternative to fixed-line access such as cable or ADSL, but it does have limitations and is yet to offer the same sort of data speeds. Despite that, satellite has succeeded in providing much faster and often more reliable Internet service, particularly in rural and regional areas, than the standard public system telephone network.

There are two types of satellite services you can use: asynchronous and synchronous. Similar to the asymmetrical DSL service, asynchronous means that there are different speeds for upstream and downstream traffic (again, downstream is faster than upstream).

Synchronous satellite services on the other hand, have the same speed for upstream as for downstream, which makes it more suitable to services that are heavily impacted by delays, like video and audio streaming.

Generally these satellite technologies work on one of two principles:

- Data is downloaded from the satellite to a terrestrial base station and from the base station to the consumer by microwave link. The consumer requires a receiving dish or antenna and a standard phone modem for uploading data to the base station and from there to the satellite.

- Data is downloaded directly to the consumer's satellite dish but a phone modem is still required to upload data to a terrestrial base station and to the satellite.

Data download speeds for consumer systems usually range from 64Kbps to 400Kbps, with upload transfer rates restricted to the 33Kbps maximum of any 33Kbps or 56Kbps modem. More expensive corporate systems can go as high at 2Mbps. Speeds can be affected by traffic volume and even bad weather, and costs vary considerably depending on the carrier.

2-way services However, recent satellite technology developments have paved the way for the launch of broadband satellite service. This service connects the user to the Internet via a 2-way satellite connection.

The 2-way service promises users download speeds of up to 512Kbps, and upload speeds of 64Kbps or 128Kbps. Unlike the 1-way satellite services mentioned above, the 2-way service also provides users with an "always on" connection to the Internet because it no longer requires a dial-up modem connected to a phone line to upload data. Instead, the information that is exchanged between the satellite, your dish and satellite equipment is securely encoded and decoded by a special satellite modem attached to your PC.

Because 2-way uses a different satellite to transmit Internet services and requires different hardware to operate, users with existing 1-way equipment will not be able to upgrade to the new 2-way product.

Again, like ADSL or cable, the satellite 2-way service has been designed to only support a single computer connection.

Wireless Wireless broadband services are centered around the IEEE 802.11 standard. Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks and Symbol Technologies worked with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE; www.iee.org) to create the IEEE 802.11 specification for use with wireless area networks. There are currently four specifications in the family: 802.11, 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g.

The most widely deployed of these today is 802.11b (often called Wi-Fi), which runs on the public 2.4GHz spectrum and is capable of data speeds of up to 11Mbps over a range of up to 150m.

This data-only system utilises a small base station connected to a wired network or to the Internet and transmits data wirelessly to multiple workstations, which can be desktops, laptops or even handheld PCs. Each base station can service several users equipped with wireless receiver cards in their computer, and base stations can be overlapped to allow several hundred users to access the network or Internet.

But while 802.11b has gained the most popularity of the wireless services, the first Wi-Fi5 or 802.11a certifications for wireless LAN access points and cards are out in October 2002. 802.11a uses the 5GHz waveband and promises speeds of up to 54Mbps, but is not interoperable with 802.11b.