Blog - What is Broadband?

Get up to speed on Broadband

Well I’m sure that you are already thinking, ‘…of course I know what Broadband is!’ And you would probably be right. You would most likely say that it is what you use to connect to the internet. But do you understand what it is, where it came from and how it is evolving? We are going to have a brief look at these aspects and hopefully Broad(band)en your mind (sorry, bad pun!)

(Ed. ‘broad’ as in wide, ‘band’ as in band-width , shorthand for the greater capacity and speed available to you)

Broadband vs Dial Up

The skinny on broad-band

So Broadband is essentially a quicker way of connecting to the internet than the older style Dial Up internet connection and a modem (MOdulator-DEModulator) – see IT element Technology for a bit of background. With dial up you will remember having to unplug the phone, run a nice long cable to trip over from the phone socket to the computer and then wait for that beautiful symphony of dings, hisses and crackles (i know you’re making the noise in your heard right now!) and then you were connected.

That was fine if you wanted to send a small email or even just about search for something using Google. But now with multimedia streaming, online gaming and so many more online services we needed something that offered a lot more speed and functionality. And this is where broadband comes into play.

The technical bit!

Broadband is another term for Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). The word asynchronous basically means that a device can send and receive information at the same time. Thus freeing up your phone line and meaning that you can talk using the phone on one channel and surf away on the net on a different channel (frequency sent down the telephone line).

So we have moved from a Dial Up system to Broadband and this has been using the same copper telephone cables from the exchange to your home. The only thing that has changed is the equipment sending out the broadband signal in the exchange. So where do we go from here! This is where we venture into the wonderful and exciting world of Fibre Optics.

The future is transparent

I hear you asking, I’ve heard of this Fibre Optic stuff, but what is it and what does it do?

Well here are some facts for you. Yes Fibre Optic cables are genuinely made from glass…yes GLASS! We have moved over from sending an analogue signal over copper wires to transmitting a digital signal through glass using light. This may sound like proper futuristic stuff but essentially you are sending data using different frequencies whether that be via electricity or light, or somewhere else on the spectrum that includes infrared, microwaves satellite, TV & radio signals etc. They can all carry carry data and coded information which is very useful for us.

Fibre Optic cables can send a much cleaner signal and can achieve an even faster Broadband speed. The potential speeds are just unimaginable if you have a fibre cable straight from the exchange all the way to your home. But if you want this you would have to pay some serious poundage! So a way that your service provider such as BT and Virgin have made this affordable is by putting Fibre Optic cables to their green cabinets on the sides of the roads and then using the existing copper cables to go to your house from there.

A quick re-cap; we have better bandwidth and a faster broadband speed so that everyone in the family can use the internet at the same time with all their connected devices. Everyone is happy…except if it goes wrong!

Author: Jeremy Bull, IT tutor, website developer and founder of How2UseIT

An IT elementary school collaboration

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