What Internet Speed Options Do You Have?

Broadband internet first came into use in 2000 and quickly replaced dial-up modem based internet which had been the standard since 1970, when the internet itself came into existence. “Broadband” is a catchall term that describes any kind of internet connection with speeds in the megabits (millions of bits of data) per second range.

The speed of your broadband internet has a lot to do with the medium through which the binary internet signal is sent to you. Internet connection can come through any one of these technologies:

Telephone lines:

(where the digital internet signal is sent through the same device as you telephone voice signal) and a telephone line is connected to your computer via a converter device called a modem (modulator-demodulator). Telephone-based internet is the slowest. The most recent version of a telephone line system is the DSL (digital subscriber line).

Cable systems:

(where the computer is connected to the internet through the  cable television system). The cable television system is connected to the computer via a cable modem that separates the internet signal from the television system and converts the signal into something computers can understand.

Satellite internet:

(where the computer connects with the internet via a small roof receiving dish subscription). The internet signal is sent and received through a geostationary satellite 22,300 miles above the earth in low earth orbit. The receiving antenna is connected to a satellite modem that converts the signal. The internet signal has to make a 22,300 mile trip four times before its transmission is completed. It goes from the computer to the satellite, then from the satellite to the network control center (NOC), then from the NOC to the satellite, then from the satellite to the computer (the amounts to about .5 seconds at the speed of light). Internet latency or “ping time” can be annoying. The signal takes a measurable amount of time getting from your computer to the satellite and from the satellite to the receiver, then to your computer.

The potential speed of the internet using satellite receivers is very high. However factors like weather and other interference factors make satellite internet more problematic. The reception is more or less line-of-sight, so that obstructions like trees, buildings or rocks can block reception completely.

Fiber Optics:

In recent years a network of fiber optic cable has been replacing coaxial wire cable to transmit digital signals across the country. Electricity passing through copper wire in coaxial cable generates heat, subtracting from the signal energy. A series or amplification relay systems along the path is needed to boost the electrical signal in steps. This amplification process further slows the electrical transmission. The copper wire molecular wave motion by which the electrical signal is transmitted is much slower than the speed of light.

Fiber optics systems convert the original electrical digital signal into light pulses which travel through total internal reflection fiber optic cables to customer receivers. Light signals move much closer to the speed of light than electrical transmission. The fiber optic signal is connected to the computer via a light-to digital electric converter. The signal is circulated through the receiver’s home or office via a router which forms a local area network.

Speed Comparison:

  • Dial-up internet can send and receive signals at rates between 28 kps (kilobytes per second) to 56 Kps. Modern images are about 3 megabytes in size. At the top rate, a single image would take nearly a minute to transmit.
  • DSL internet that uses its own dedicated phone line can send and receive signals at between 128 kps and 8 mps (megabytes per second). The average image would take between 23 and under .4 seconds to transmit under the best conditions.
  • Cable internet using transmission through television cable can send and receive at rates between 512 kps and 300 mps. The average image would take nearly 6 seconds and .15 seconds to transmit.
  • Satellite connection speeds are very close to those of cable (between 512 kps and 2.0 mps).
  • In the United States, fiber optic internet transmits as fast as 1000 mps (1gps). The average image would transmit nearly instantaneously.

If you get top-notch service, DSL, cable, satellite or fiber optic internet could provide adequate wide band service. However, fiber optic internet, clearly, offers the fastest transmission and fewest technical complications.

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