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Broadband Explained

Millions of people around the world enjoy access to more information and entertainment than ever before. Only twenty years ago, the ability to stream live movies and television programs around the world onto a wireless laptop computer would have been thought the stuff of science fiction. Many of us take for granted the countless benefits broadband access providers. So, to fully appreciate how revolutionary this technology is, we need to examine how broadband operates.


In essence, the word broadband refers to a form of telecommunications which uses a large amount of bandwidth. Before this, a file of only a few megabytes would take up to thirty minutes to download using traditional dial-up service. In fact, a broadband connection can be between ten and one hundred times faster than a 56k modem. How, then does it achieve such extraordinary results?
One of the primary reasons that broadband can transmit and receive large amounts of data is how the system operates. Traditional dial-up communications were akin to a one-lane road. Data can be sent and received, but only small amounts at a time due to the “width” of this road (otherwise known as bits of data sent per second). Broadband uses coaxial cable and fibre-optic networking. There are a couple of reasons this method is so much more efficient. The comparison between dial-up access and broadband transmission can be likened to the difference between a one-lane road and a twelve-lane superhighway. Therefore, broadband connections experience less "traffic jams" of data, even when a great deal is being sent or received. Another difference is that there is less of a potential to lose data in transmission due to the physical properties of both coaxial cable and fibre optic systems.

If we take broadband one step further we encounter wireless broadband. Unlike coaxial or fibre optic cables, wireless broadband uses no physical wires to send and receive data. Instead, information is sent using radio waves between a service provider and a user’s computer. Wireless towers are put in place to help boost these signals as their strength can be diminished due to outside sources of interference. For the reason that there are virtually no bandwidth restrictions with wireless, a great deal of information can be sent and received.

A third type of broadband is satellite broadband. Signals are sent from an owner’s satellite dish, received by the satellite overhead and subsequently bounced back down to a receiver station. As the distances involved are immense, the drawback is that there may be a lag time between sending and receiving information. Conversely, many use satellite broadband when they live in remote locations which do not have adequate access to coaxial cable or wireless services.

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