Internet

Types of Internet Service

Copper   

Since the launch of the telephone over a hundred years ago, copper cabling is everywhere and is adequate for analog voice signals, but has very limited bandwidth, requires extensive maintenance as it ages and loses a significant amount of signal strength as the length of cabling becomes greater. The physical limitations of copper make running multiple applications and future applications limited at best.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)

DSL uses an existing phone line to provide dedicated broadband Internet service. It is available in two main forms.

Asymmetrical DSL (ADSL) which offers download speeds of up to 15MB and upload speeds reaching 7MB. Very-high-bit-rate DSL (VDSL), offers speeds of up to 70MB download and 10MB upload.

DSL speed is directly impacted by how close you are to your local telephone exchange. The further the distance, the greater the signal degradation and the slower the internet connection speed.   

Cable, DOCSIS (Data over Cable Service Interface Specification)

Derives its name from cable television and using a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem, can provide broadband internet speeds of up to 10GB download and 1 GB upload. Its main drawback is that it is a shared service and a single line connects to multiple users in a neighbourhood. If multiple users access the internet simultaneously, then it is very likely that the internet speed for everyone using the service is slowed down significantly.  

Fiber Optic Cable

Technology that transmits data through thin strands of highly transparent fiber material (usually glass or plastic). Hundreds or thousands of these fine fibers can be bundled into a single optic cable. Their design allows digital information to travel incredibly far distances with very little degradation. It is extremely fast, compared to other internet service types and the quality of the data is unmatched in other technologies in use today. Speeds for fiber optics can generally reach up to 10GB, using dedicated bandwidth.

Deployment and installation of fiber can be expensive, time-consuming and complex since the cable is buried underground. Installation times can take 3 to 12 months. It is limited by geography when deploying them around man-made structures like roads and crowded cities or around natural obstructions, like rivers, lakes, etc. Fiber lines require maintenance, as they wear down over time and they can also be cut.   

The table below illustrates download times compared to common broadband speeds.

All download speeds are estimates and speeds vary depending on your Internet connection.

Type of media

Approximate size

1Mbps

5Mbps

10Mbps

20Mbps

100MB

1000MB

(Gigabit)

4-minute song

4 MB

30s

5s

3s

1.5s

0.3s

0.03s

5-minute video

30 MB

3m

40s

26s

13s

2.5s

0.2s

9-hour audiobook

110 MB

10m

2m

1.5m

46s

9.2s

0.9s

45-minute TV show

200 MB

20m

5m

3m

1.5m

16s

1.7s

45-minute HDTV show

600 MB

1h

15m

8.5m

4m

50s

5s

2-hour movie

1.0-1.5 GB

2h

24m

21.5m

10.5m

1.5m

8s

2-hour HD movie

3.0-4.5 GB

6h

72m

60m

32m

4.5m

25s

Satellite Broadband

Typically used in remote or rural areas where fixed-line broadband is slow or non-existent, satellite broadband operates by sending and receiving broadband signals to a satellite about 35,000 km in space. Current speeds are comparable to standard ADSL broadband.

Satellite can be expensive with very high latency (also known as lag), since the signal has to travel over 35,000 km into space and back, which makes certain internet applications impractical. They are also prone to weather interference. Industry analysts state that new LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites will be smaller and cheaper than current satellites and will be competitive in price and speed to fiber, once they are launched into low orbit (200-1000 km above Earth), over the next several years. 

(Fixed) Wireless Broadband

Technology that sends information from one point to another using the microwave radio spectrum. The information is beamed from one central location to a receiving dish. Wireless broadband is used in urban, suburban and rural areas where fixed-line services, like fiber, cable television and DSL are too expensive, too slow or non-existent.

Fixed-wireless speeds range from 8MB up to 1GB with high reliability and low latency. In many cases, this service can be a great alternative to fiber, DSL, satellite and cable television services because installation is cheaper and faster than fixed-line services, while still giving comparable speeds. Installation timelines range from 15 to 30 days and maintenance is generally cheaper because there is no underground digging or mapping required.

One of the perceived limitations of fixed-wireless is that because it requires line-of-sight (LOS) from the sending station to the receiver, any obstructions, such as trees and buildings, can adversely affect performance. This limitation has been overcome by improved equipment technologies, sophisticated deployment strategies and utilizing lower frequency radio spectrum. An increasing number of companies are now using fixed-wireless as their backup to fiber service.

Wi-Fi

This is an abbreviated term and the most widely accepted definition for the term is Wireless Fidelity.  Wi-Fi is a technology that uses radio waves to provide network connectivity. A Wi-Fi connection is established using a wireless adapter to create hotspots – areas in the vicinity of a wireless router that are connected to the network and allow users to access internet services. Once configured, Wi-Fi provides wireless connectivity to your devices by emitting frequencies between 2.4GHz – 5GHz, based on the amount of data on the network.

Terms:

Middle Mile (sometimes called “backbone”):
Technologies that bring the Internet to a point in a community (Point-of-Presence). Middle-mile technology is often fibre optic-based, but can include a range of technologies including microwave, wireless and satellite.

Point of Presence:
Point in a community from which Internet can be distributed to individual homes and businesses in the community

Last Mile:
Technologies that distribute Internet from the Point of Presence to individual homes and businesses in the community. Last-mile technology is either wired (cable, fibre, or copper twisted pair), fixed wireless, or satellite.


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