Fast Broadband Internet: What is it?
Until the year 2000, the typical UK household was connected to the Internet through a dial-up modem with connection speeds of no more than 56Kb (kilobits) per second. While these connections were fast enough to allow users to browse the Internet, the data transfer capacity that was necessary to download music and video was frustratingly at low speeds. It wasn't until cheap and fast broadband was introduced with larger downloading capacities.
Before we go on, let's just clear something up. The speed of your Internet connection is measured in 'bits' - single digits of binary code (i.e. 110100101101= 12 bits of data). So, a 56Kbps modem can download a maximum of 56,000 'bits' every second. Confusingly, though, when you download data from the Internet (in the form of MP3 music files, for example), these files are often measured in 'bytes' - groups of 8 'bits'. So, a 5MB (Megabyte) file is actually 40Mb (Megabits) in size.
Before fast broadband providers were available in the UK, you could download a 5MB song in no less than twelve minutes, even if you achieved the maximum speed of your modem (a very rare event). In 2000, high-speed broadband was introduced commercially to the UK, and suddenly home users had access to speeds of up to 256Kbps - almost five times the speed of the old dial-up connections - allowing people to download 5MB song in less than three minutes. Finally, we had the technology to download a song in less time than it took to play it.
Since 2000, broadband technology has moved ahead in leaps and bounds. Telephone exchanges across the UK have been retrofitted to enable the use of broadband, and today almost every home is able to connect whenever they wished for. Today we have even moved on beyond the 256Kbps connections. Many broadband providers such as BT broadband, AOL broadband and Be broadband now offer connection speeds of upto 24Mbps.
The demand for higher capacity of data transfer has led to the development of new internet technologies. It is now possible to download entire movies, TV programs, and music tracks in just a matter of few seconds compared to the time taken for downloading earlier. We are now able to not just download but to stream high-quality video to our computers - thus allowing us to watch as we download. Online communities such as YouTube offer instant access to video files that play at the click of a mouse.
In short, cheap and fast broadband has allowed Internet users to move far beyond text. We're now discovering a whole new Internet - one in which we can find more than just information. The new Internet promises much, much more, and there's still more to come.
Compare Heavy usage Broadband Connections, High Speed Broadband Providers in our site.
How fast must really a fast broadband be?
Gone are the days when users were waiting for quicker downloads as faster broadband speed has made online activities faster. Broadband speed typically refers to the speed at which the information is transferred from the internet to the computer. It is to be noted that the broadband speed refers primarily to the download speed, while the upload speed is slower. Broadband speeds have recently shown a lot of developments especially in the case of its speed. Fastest broadband speeds of upto 100Mbps is provided
by Virgin Media alone in UK in those areas where fibre optic broadband network is laid. According to a survey conducted by Uswitch.com, the best broadband speed is offered by O2 followed by Virgin Media and Sky.
BT offers speeds of upto 40Mb that can be used for speedy downloads and also for online gaming. Different broadband providers have come forward with their own plans and hence it is left to users to make comparison in order to pick up the right one. Some lower priced packages also come with attractive broadband speeds. Until recently, ISPs were providing broadband service with maximum download speeds of up to 8Mb. It is to be noted that the term "up to" used by broadband providers means the speed could be less that the quoted figure due to several factors. Better the service available from broadband providers higher will be service charges.
One must remember that the broadband speed purely depends upon several factors including the distance between the premises and the local exchange. However, tight competition prevailing between broadband providers has paved way for faster connections and better services. BT has however tried to improve speeds to up to 24Mb.
One of the major advantages of fibre optic broadband provided by Virgin Media is that distance between the premises and the local exchange does not make any difference at all. But it is sad to note that the fibre optic cable lines does not reach throughout UK.
Opting for a broadband provider completely depends upon his/ her requirements. Heavy users can very well go for faster broadband connection in order to experience the spirit. Actual speed of broadband connection can be checked by conducting a speed test using the broadband calculator.
Comparison of fast broadband in mobile broadband
Speed is the major factor considered by the consumers while purchasing a broadband package. Currently, the average speed of mobile broadband is 3.6Mb while the mobile broadband offers range between 1.8Mb and 7.2Mb. Areas that are covered with mobile broadband with 3G coverage have a maximum speed of 21Mb. Customers can make use of dongles in those places where there is good mobile reception.
Download speed is considered the most important factor by most users because downloading happens more than uploading. Hence, download speed is faster than upload speed. Comparison tables showing 'Speed' actually denotes the download speed. However, upload speed is important for those who do more of uploading than downloading. Customers with mobile broadband dongle enjoy broadband speed of more than 2Mb while other broadband customers may not.
The speed of mobile broadband gets affected by various factors such as network traffic, network coverage, state of motion, interference from other devices and weather conditions. Mobile broadband is considered as good as the fixed line connection but some might find the speed to be a bit slower. 3G broadband speed comes with around 2Mb speed and is suitable for most of the online tasks. It has been noted that most of the users who work online most of the time do not cancel their existing fixed line connection at one go. Some mobile broadband users require just 1Mb to check mails, download songs, browse the web and even watch streaming TV.
Online gamers may not find mobile broadband to be beneficial as it does not run that smoothly. Gamers
can get the feel of the game depending upon the intensity of the signal. Online games require quick response time and ping rates. Online games require higher download speed in order to play the game lively. Also, large game patches get downloaded that makes gaming much more slower. It is also important for gamers to be careful about the data limit because if they cross the data limit, then they have to pay for the extra broadband used. Serious online gamers must look for available broadband packages in order to meet their demands.
Comparison of fast broadband in cable broadband
Virgin Media has recently unveiled the fastest cable broadband for its customers. The average broadband speed in Britain is around 6mbps whereas the fast cable broadband that is laid is about 250 times faster at about 1.5Gbps. Upload speed is 150Mbps only. So far, Virgin Media has been making history in everything they do. Cable broadband is in fact faster than copper telephone lines that were used for broadband purposes. Although several types of broadband have come in to the market, it is the cable broadband that is still in the lead.
The performance of cable broadband connection depends completely on the distance between the local exchange and the premises as this type of broadband connection uses cable wires for connection.
Comparison of fast broadband in fibre optic broadband
Maximum speed offered by Virgin Media is 100Mb and this has been brought to reality with the help of fibre optic cable lines. This speed is not currently available all over UK but mostly in urban areas only. BT offers speeds of upto 40Mb. Fibre optic cables are more efficient as they do not lose strength even when the signal travels over longer distances. In general, fibre optic and cable networks offer download speeds of upto 50mbps. Fibre optic cable lines run from the provider's local exchange to the junction box that is placed outside the house from where copper lines are laid from the junction box to the interiors of the house.
Advantages of 100Mb broadband are
- Download of a TV show in just 30 seconds
- Download of a music album in less than 5 seconds
- Download of games in less than 2 minutes
- Download of high quality movies in about 1 ½ minutes and high definition movies in about 7 minutes.
- Playing of online games with dozens of players
- Streaming HD video straight to the computer without having to wait to download
Some of the benefits of fibre optic cable broadband are reliable connection that is fast, speeds of upto 100Mb, excellent package from Virgin Media and BT.
Comparison of fast broadband in satellite broadband
Satellite broadband connection also play a major role in those areas where other forms of broadband connection is not possible. It provides speeds of upto 10Mb. Three main providers of satellite broadband connection are Eutelsat, Tariam and Astra. The current download speed of satellite broadband connection is only upto 3.6Mb. Download allowances are lower than the fixed line connections. One
main disadvantage of satellite broadband connection is that it is unreliable and cannot be used for online gaming and internet television services.
Advantages of satellite broadband connection are:
- it eliminates the usage of connecting mediums such as cables wires, fibre optic cables etc.
- the distance you stay from the local exchange also does not make a difference for its transmission because signals transmitted from the satellite reaches even the "not spots".
- Higher upload speeds
- Broadband is accessible to everyone on earth Satellite broadband connection is the ultimate solution for those who cannot get broadband connection through cable or copper lines.
Disadvantages of satellite broadband connection are:
- Weather conditions greatly affect the transmission of signals and hence cannot rely upon satellite
- broadband connection alone for permanent online activities.
- The cost of installation of satellite broadband connection is more than other types of broadband connection.
Comparison of fast broadband in ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) broadband
ADSL broadband connection is made through fixed telephone wires and mostly covers about 95% of homes in the UK. It comes with the speeds ranging from 2Mb to 24Mb. ADSL broadband connection is the standard home broadband form. Broadband providers offer cheaper ADSL connections with unlimited download allowances and higher connection speed.
ADSL broadband connections might be affected due to technical reasons, which result in slower speeds. Customers living further away from local exchanges might not get proper transmission. The download speeds of ADSL broadband connection is 24mbps. Customers can enjoy online as it does not work like a dial up connection. The closer you are to the local exchange the higher will be the potential of the transmission rate. In case there is any problem in copper lines, then the whole internet communication will be hindered.
But how do you check your broadband speed?
Broadband speed can be checked by going in for a speed test by the use of a broadband calculator. But before you actually go for a test, one must see to the following:
- that no other applications are running in the background such as instant messaging programs and emails as it slows down the broadband speed
- number of users online in a place, street, town or country and ISPs slow down the internet speed especially during busy schedules whenever consumers exceed their download limit. This method is called as 'traffic shaping'. A better picture of your broadband speed can be known only when the speed test is conducted at different times of a day.
Steps to get fast broadband
Having got a better broadband connection one would be surprised if the broadband connection goes slower. Ofcom has recently found that not a single broadband provider is providing the customer with the advertised speeds. In fact the difference between the advertised speed and the actual speed is more. Hence, it is often misleading consumers at the time of selecting a broadband provider. However, keeping these points in mind, one needs to understand about certain ways by which one can improve broadband speed at home.
1. Test your broadband speed
Using online speed test can help you understand the speed of your broadband connection. Thus you will be able to know the difference between the advertised speed and actual speed.
2. Check your limit
If you watch TV shows, download music, stream movies or play online games then you are likely to exceed your download limits very easily. Hence broadband provider slows down the broadband speed if any consumer exceeds his download limit. This method of slowing down the broadband speed is called as 'traffic shaping'. Hence, it is advisable to switch to broadband deal that has unlimited download limit or to a faster deal. You can go for a broadband download monitor to keep track of the amount of downloads you have done.
3. Wireless broadband
If you have a wireless broadband connection, it is important that your network is secured and protected with a password. Otherwise, any one can use your wireless broadband connection and can make the connection even slower. More the number of users on your connection, the slower the connection it will be.
4. Check for the software
It is important to check if the internet software you are using is up-to-date. It is important to note that the latest version of the web browsers help a lot in downloading web pages faster.
5. Clear the cache
It is important to clear your cache because each time you open a web page the web browser will cache/ store it and this can slow down the browser.
It is important to check if applications open and run in the background each time the computer is turned on. More the number of applications that run in the background the slower the internet connection will be.
7. Electrical equipments
Check for the electrical equipments as it might be causing interference with the performance of the broadband connection.
8. Test for viruses
Up-to-date anti virus protection helps you to safeguard your computer. This will indirectly decrease the download speed of broadband.
9. Check the extensions and wires
Extensions and wires need to be checked to find if they are causing any hidden problems. Removing the faceplate and plugging the router to the test socket gives you better idea about any existing faults.
10. Get a new router/ modem
If the router or modem you are using is a very old device then it would be better to intimate about this to your broadband provider and get another new one. Most broadband providers give free device in case it is found to be causing any problem.
If the above tips do not help you in any way, then it is advisable to contact your provider or your provider's dispute resolution service directly.