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Broadband Internet Services Guide

Broadband has seen a rapid growth over the past couple of years. Not only business customers but also residential users are shifting towards broadband internet services because of the high speed of internet access that is available via a broadband service. The rapid growth of Broadband services has also come with intense competition in the broadband market. The competition among broadband providers has made the services more affordable for users as each broadband provider has tried to gain ground by reducing service prices or introducing promotional offers.

The high speeds of broadband have made it possible for users to do so much more on the internet. The availability of broadband services has also fueled the growth of broadband-friendly content such as streaming music and videos, games, and other multimedia applications. For businesses where time often spells money, employee access to broadband has almost become the absolute necessity.

Apart from the benefits of high speeds, broadband also offers convenience of an always-on connection which basically gives you internet access right at your fingertips. Where with dial-up users had to go through the frustration of having to dialup each time in order to connect to the internet, with broadband that whole process is eliminated. Moreover, for residential users, broadband eliminates the need of an additional phone line.

Broadband Service types

Under the broadband internet service category, there are a variety of services, all of which give you high speed internet access. When you try to determine which broadband service type to go for, you may need to evaluate and compare broadband services on various criteria such as connection speeds, price, availability, installation or equipment costs, etc. Following are the broadband service types available:

ISDN ISDN - Integrated services digital network. The ISDN service offers speeds from 64kbps to 128kbps. ISDN can be of two types - ISDN Basic Rate Interface (or BRI) is a standard connection suitable for home or business use. It offers two simultaneous connections where each connection can be for fax, voice or data. In case of a data connection, ISDN BRI can offer two independent data channels of 64kbps each, or a single channel of 128kbps. The ISDN Primary Rate Interface (or PRI) offers 30 channels (of 64kbps each), giving a total of 1920kbps. Again, each channel can be separate or channels can be combined for higher bandwidth. ISDN is much more expensive compared to many other broadband solutions.

DSL DSL - Digital subscriber line. DSL technology uses phone lines to carry digital signals directly. Whereas, in case of dialup the dialup modem converts digital signals to analog so that they could be carried easily over the phone lines. Therefore dialup is limited by the limitations of phone lines which can carry signals at maximum speeds of approximately 56kbps. On the contrary, since DSL technology enables the direct transmission of digital signals without converting them to analog, it allows higher connection speeds than the regular dialup modem. The digital signals do not interfere with the voice signals as they are carried at different frequencies and hence users can use the phone while being connected to DSL. Moreover with DSL the connection is always-on and hence users do not need to dialup each time to establish the connection.

There are different types of DSL service, the most common being ADSL. ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is termed asymmetric because its downstream bandwidth is much higher than the upstream bandwidth. ADSL is added to phone lines along with a DSL modem. The DSL modem plugs into the computer via the Ethernet or USB connection. An ADSL access requires your phone to be directly connected to your phone exchange with a copper wire connection and you need to be within a specific distance to the exchange. Because the ADSL connection has this distance limitation, therefore ADSL may not be easily available in remote areas. Your service provider will be able to tell you if you can get ADSL in your area.

The speeds of ADSL broadband connections are affected by the distance from local exchange. In order to offer same broadband speeds to all users, DSL companies limit the connection speeds to the rate that can be provided to all users, even the ones further away from the exchange. Usually this speed is approx. 1.5 Mbps. ADSL is the type of DSL service that is commonly offered to residential customers.

Other types of DSL services include SDSL and HDSL. SDSL (Symmetric DSL) and HDSL (High bit-rate DSL) are business broadband services and offer same upstream and downstream speeds. SDSL has speeds of upto 2.3 Mbps while HDSL has speeds of upto 1.5 Mbps. Besides SDSL and HDSL, another DSL service type is VDSL. VDSL (Very high data rate DSL) offers speeds upto 50 Mbps. VDSL is highly expensive to deploy.

Cable Internet Whereas DSL is a dedicated service, Cable Internet service on the other hand is shared. Internet subscribers in a neighborhood share same cable connection point and therefore share the bandwidth from that connection point. Therefore cable companies may add more connection points in a neighborhood depending upon the number of users within the area who subscribe to the cable service. This enables the cable companies to give more consistent performance in terms of internet connection speeds to their subscribers.

Data for high speed internet access is carried on the same fibre networks that carry cable TV signals. So if you are able to get Cable TV in your area then chances are that you should also be able to get Cable internet access, though it does depend upon the type of cable equipment that is installed in the area or building.

Even in buildings where cable is already installed, depending on the type of equipment in place in your building, you may not be able to use cable as an Internet connection.

For cable internet service, you need a cable modem which connects your PC to the cable. Once the cable is installed, you'll need a cable modem to get connected. This connects at one end to the cable, and at the other end to your PC via a USB connection or Ethernet. The internet access speeds via cable internet can go up to 3 Mbps, however since many users share the connection, the performance may vary.

Satellite Broadband Satellite Broadband is an alternative for internet users who do not have the availability of DSL or Cable Broadband access. In remote or rural areas Satellite Broadband provides high speed internet access that is more reliable than the internet access via phone network. Satellite Broadband services can Asynchronous or Synchronous. In case of Asynchronous Satellite Broadband service, the upstream and downstream speeds are different, with downstream speed being faster than the upstream speed. Synchronous Satellite Broadband services have the same upstream and downstream speeds. Download speeds are in the range of 64 - 400 kbps while upload speeds are upto 33kbps maximum with a normal 56kbps modem. Speeds also depend upon traffic volume and weather conditions.

A Satellite Broadband system involves the Satellite, Base station, Receiving antenna at consumer's end and a phone modem for uploading data to base station and further to Satellite. Though the data is downloaded directly to receiving antenna at consumer's end, however a phone modem is required for uploading data to base station and to satellite.

However now 2-way satellite connection services are also being made available whereby the phone modem is no longer required for data upload. The 2-way satellite broadband services can give download speeds of upto 512 kbps and upload speeds of 64 or 128 kbps. Moreover the connection is always-on since phone modem is not required, instead there is a special satellite modem connected to the PC.

Wireless Broadband For wireless you can have either pure data applications of wireless local area networks (WLANs) or data, voice, and video converged in broadband wireless.

Wireless Local Area Networks

Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN) provide the final few meters of internet connectivity between a wired network and the user's mobile device. WLANs are based on the IEEE 802.11 standard. Currently the predominant standard, it is supported by vendors such as Cisco, Lucent, Apple, etc. WLAN configurations can be simple peer-to-peer connections between a set of PCs or they can be complex infrastructure networks that encompass a building.

A typical WLAN infrastructure configuration comprises Access points and Wireless Client Adapter. Access points receive and transmit data between the WLAN and the wired network. The access point connects to LAN via an Ethernet cable. A single access point can have coverage between 20 to 100 meters depending upon the obstacles in the area and can support about 20 users on average. To support wireless connectivity for all users, a building may require multiple access points. The Wireless Client Adapter connects users via access point to the LAN. The wireless adapter can be a PC card in a laptop, an ISA or PCI adapter in a desktop computer, or can be fully integrated within a handheld device.

Broadband Wireless

Unlike WLANs, Broadband Wireless facilitates simultaneous delivery of voice, data and video. Broadband wireless requires clear line of sight between transmitter and receiver. Broadband wireless can be in the form of Local multi-point distribution service (LMDS) or Multi-channel multi-point distribution service (MMDS).

Business Broadband Services

While Residential broadband consumers are primarily concerned about the price and value of the broadband service, business broadband customers have several more considerations which determine their decision to go with a specific broadband service provider. Some of these considerations for Business Broadband services are listed below:

Static and Dynamic IP addresses

In case of a dynamic IP address, you get assigned a different IP address each time you log on to the network. When you log off, you lose that IP address which may then be assigned to another user. On the other hand, with static IP address you get a fixed IP address assigned to you.

When you have a fixed IP address, you will be able to use your computer as an internet server and other computers will be able to find you. You will also be able to login to your file and mail servers from anywhere with internet access and thus have remote access to local area network or virtual private network facilities.

Therefore depending upon your business requirements you will need to check with your ISP if they will give you the option of Static IP. Having a Static IP, however, requires additional security measures such as firewalls.

However, having a permanent connection (by giving other Web servers the ability to locate you) will pose a greater security risk, so you will need to put security measures in place, such as firewalls.

Broadband sharing across multiple PCs

When you get broadband service, you can share the broadband access with multiple computers in your home or office. You can either implement line sharing or a local area network. In case of line sharing, you need to have additional outlets installed for each computer.

To set up a LAN on the broadband service, you can use a router. A router has multiple ports and connected users can share files, peripherals, printers and more with everyone else on the network. By connecting a broadband modem (cable, DSL or other), they can share a single high speed Internet connection. That's everyone online, all at the same time.

An alternative to using routers is to use a proxy server. A proxy server is a program that runs on the computer directly connected to the internet modem. Proxy server acts as an intermediary between computers on the LAN and computer on the Internet. Proxy servers often have a cache built in to make web surfing faster. Computers on the LAN request data from the proxy server to access the internet. Because a proxy server does all of the data requesting, each PC must be configured to make all internet requests from the proxy server - not the internet. Configuring a proxy server for more than basic web, ftp, news and mail functionality can be challenging for a beginner.. In addition to proxy software, you will need a network card and cable for each computer as well as a network hub.

Back-up Access

In case the broadband service from the ISP is down then you need to have a back-up option from the Broadband ISP. Many Broadband providers offer backup dialup access as a part of their broadband service package.

Security

Since broadband connections are always-on, the broadband users are constantly exposed to online security risks. Therefore online security tools and features are very important for broadband users. Most broadband providers include firewalls and antivirus protection in their packages.

Broadband Service Queries

Following are some of the important consideration that you should discuss with your broadband provider before you choose the service:

Broadband Service availability in your location

Most broadband providers will give you the information on their website.

Time to install

The time for installation of broadband equipment and activation of the service will vary with the broadband service type and the ISP.

Cost of installation

In some case, you get the can do self-installation of service with the option to request for a technician. There are additional charges for a technician's visit.

Installation prices will depend on a range of conditions, including whether you install the service yourself or opt for a technician; how long you sign up to the plan; what modem you choose (for example, if you select a 1 or 4 port ADSL modem, or if you buy a modem independently of the ISP) and any additional equipment you need (such as a Ethernet card, additional phone line filters or splitter).

Monthly Download limits

Some broadband providers may limit the download capacity you get per month depending upon your broadband service plan, while others may offer unlimited downloads. In case of former, additional charges may be applied if you exceed the download limit.

Acceptable use policy

Some broadband providers may include conditions in their AUP whereby you cannot send unsolicited bulk mails, etc. For business broadband customers, it is advisable to go through the AUP.

Service and support

Business broadband customers should be aware of the level of support they can get from their broadband provider. Additionally the support and warranties for the broadband equipment, options to purchase equipment, are some service-related considerations worth looking into.

Package deals and promotions

Broadband providers often offer discounts for bundled services. For example if you purchase both phone service and broadband from the ISP, then you may get a discounted price.

Contract term

Broadband services often come with yearly contracts. Long-term contracts may translate into lower service price. The ISP may charge a termination fee if you break the contract before the term expires.

System requirements

Check compatibility with your operating systems, the amount of free disk space required and requirement of USP ports.

Modems

The Broadband ISP may or may not provide you with the modem for the service. If you have to buy your own modem then you need to get modem specifications from the ISP.
 
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