Broadband Guide for Beginners

In the past few years, we've seen Internet technology advance at an astonishing rate. Just a few short years ago, we'd have to wait an age to download a single MP3. With the introduction of high speed broadband we can now get the same file downloaded in just a couple of minutes - sometimes even less!

But just what is broadband? You've heard the term, but do you really understand what it is? How it works? What do all the technical terms related to broadband mean? What does the future hold? We'll take a look at these questions in this brief broadband guide.


What is broadband?

Broadband can be defined as an internet connection with higher bandwidth. It is faster than the traditional internet connection with telephone lines and modem. Download and upload speed is also faster than the conventional ones. Broadband connection allows user to download large data at high speeds. A broadband speed test may be conducted in order to confirm the broadband performance. Different mediums used for transferring data using broadband connection are phone line, cable or satellite. Permanent connection rather than the dial up is the advantage of broadband connection. Hence, users need not connect to internet each time they need to.

How does broadband work?

It isn't necessary to understand the technical ins-and-outs of broadband, but here's a basic explanation. Your Internet connection is made through standard telephone wires - basically, a set of two copper wires connecting your phone to your local exchange. When you make a simple phone call, the data is transmitted within a frequency of 0-3,400 Hertz, as is data transmitted over a 'dial-up' Internet connection. The telephone wires, however, have the capacity to carry data over a much wider range of frequencies. Broadband takes advantage of that wider range, and thus can transmit and receive much more data at any one time. Put simply, it transmits over a 'broader' band of frequencies, hence the term 'broadband'.

Broadband connection uses cables, mobile phone networks, satellites and ISDN/ DSLs in order to transmit data. A brief explanation on the working of each of the broadband connection is given below.

ADSL broadband connection

ADSL broadband connection consists of telephonic connection between the exchange and the customer's place. Copper wire used in telephone wire carries both telephonic and broadband information. The connection that ends in a socket in the customer's destination is connected with Microfilter, which separates the incoming signal in to two- telephonic and broadband data. Thus it helps the customer use telephone as well while he is still busy on the internet. The connection to the internet is always on.

Cable broadband connection

Cable broadband usually uses fibre optic cables instead of copper wires to transfer data. These cables carry both audio and visual data. Customers can enjoy digital TV services, internet facility and landline at the same time. Mobile broadband works with the 3G technology that uses other two technologies such as HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Access) and HSUPA (High Speed Upload Packet Access). Users get continuous broadband connection wherever they go due to the mobile phone masts present in almost all areas. Cable service provider uses a cable modem and set-top box.

Wireless broadband connection or WiFi

When the data transmission reaches the router, it gets converted in to radio signals. This is then re-encoded and presented to the user. The network card and the router in the computer that actually helps in the transmission of data is wireless. Users have the option of changing the signals to different frequencies whenever other frequencies are busy. One main advantage of wireless broadband connection is that it can be carried around to get better signal. WiFi adapter or wireless card placed at home or in the office helps devices such as laptops and game consoles pick up radio signals that are converted from the internet data by WiFi.

Satellite broadband

Satellite broadband connection provides two way service such as one way and two way link. User receives information on to his computer from the satellite with the help of the satellite dish. But the user does not have the option of sending the information back to the satellite. This is not the same in the case of the two way link as the information can be received as well as sent back to the satellite. Satellite broadband connection works with the concept of dial up connection, yet the download speed is faster. However, satellite broadband connection is not popular because of its higher cost and poor transmission incase of bad weather conditions.

Advantages of broadband connection

  • Broadband connection is about 100 times faster compared to dial up connection. A bandwidth calculator tells how fast your broadband is by calculating the bandwidth that is used by the web.
  • It takes very less download time for any file depending on the file size.
  • Broadband connection does not disturb your telephone calls as the lines are separate for internet and calls.
  • You are always connected to the internet and hence do not have to connect it each time you need broadband as in the case of dial up connection.
  • Features such as unlimited broadband help users make the maximum out of the broadband connection.
  • Provides cheap services both for internet and call facility
  • No requirement for a separate telephone line.
  • This is a technology that can be applied at home, office or any other depending upon the requirement.

What's with the technical jargon?

Computer folks love their jargon. Here's a quick guide to a few common broadband terms.


DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is simply a technology that allows for high-speed data transmission over telephone wires. Using DSL, it is possible to split voice and data transmissions over the same wire, allowing you to talk on the phone while you're connected to the Internet - something that isn't possible using dial-up. ADSL (Asymmetric DSL) broadband is the standard technology used for home broadband connections.

Cable Modem

A cable modem is simply a modem used to connect to a broadband service using the same infrastructure used for cable TV. Similar to DSL, cable modems simply send and receive data using a frequency band unused by the TV signal, which means that you can watch cable TV while surfing the Internet.


ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. An ISP is an organization that offers users' access to the Internet. In the past, ISPs were run by phone companies, but today they can be set up by anyone. Upstart broadband ISPs pay the phone company for access to the phone lines, and then sell on that access to the end user (you and I).

Wireless (Wi-Fi) Internet

In the past few years, it has become popular for public places - coffee shops, office buildings, and so on - to provide wireless broadband connections for their customers and staff. Increasingly, wireless access is being taken up by home users as well. Connecting through using a wireless router, several PCs or laptops could connect to the service, throughout the home without the need for wires.

Readers of this page can also visit broadband glossary page to know more about broadband terms. We will make our best efforts to add more new terms to this page. Thank you for your patience.

What's Next?

Since the current standard ADSL has pretty much hit its speed limit of around 8Mbps, developers are working hard to design new technology to beat this limit. The main contenders at the moment seem to be ADSL2 and ADSL2+, the second-generation technologies of broadband. ADSL2 will offer download speeds of up to 12Mbps, while ADSL2+ will be capable of double this - with the possibility of combining multiple wires to double, triple or quadruple the speed.

With these new technologies being rolled out over the next few years we shouldn't have to worry about running out of speed any time soon.