Types of Broadband
In order to get broadband, you need to choose an internet service provider that offers a service in your area and a new high speed modem for your computer. Most internet service providers will include the modem as part of the installation fee. The five types of broadband access currently available are:
ADSL stands for asymmetric digital subscriber line and is the most popular type of broadband in the UK. It is a way of sending data along your existing telephone line using technology which packs more information into the signal. There are many internet service providers that offer broadband via your phone line.
- Downloading information is much faster than sending
If you have access to cable television in your area through a cable operator like Virgin Media then you can probably connect to the internet using the same line as your digital TV and telephone. The cable itself is made up of a bundle of optical fibres which can carry many times more information than a telephone cable and over longer distances without the signal quality decreasing.
- Easy to install
- Potentially the fastest connection
- Only available in cities and large towns
Wireless connections (popularly known as wi-fi connections) are made by transmitting the internet to people's computers by means of radio signals. This offers small communities an increasingly popular alternative to ADSL.
Wireless Local Area Networks (LANs) can be built by putting aerials on the outside of a number of houses which then allow anyone within a certain area to receive broadband internet access. It can cover a street or a whole village, as shown by Ledbury Broadband in South Herefordshire.
To set up a wireless broadband network for a community, you need to find a technology company to work with and ask them how many people need to sign-up and what the costs will be. In England, you may like to talk to a local or regional development agency about getting some additional funding. More people can join the network at any time and members pay an installation fee and then a monthly subscription.
- Not restricted by the local telephone exchange
- Fast connection for downloading and sending information
- Requires an experienced technology provider to set up and maintain the network
- Can suffer from interference in built-up areas if there is another network nearby used for something other than internet access
A wireless LAN also provides a community with its own very high-speed network, independent of the World Wide Web, which links all the local subscribers and enables them to share files with each other even faster than over the internet.
For people looking for a personal solution, a number of mobile phone networks are now offering third generation or 3G wireless connections. However, they are more expensive than cable, ADSL and a local wi-fi network. They use plug-in PCMCIA cards, (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association), which allow laptops to connect to the internet wherever they are, as long as there is sufficient reception.
Getting broadband by satellite could be the solution for very isolated communities where there is no easy access to ADSL or cable. There are two types of broadband available by satellite: one-way and two-way. One-way provides a very fast connection but in one direction – download only. This means to send information back you still need to have a dial-up connection. Two-way satellite allows you to both download data and send it back to the satellite – though at a much slower rate. However, two-way satellite broadband is very expensive.
- Bad weather can cause connection problems
A number of regional development agencies have provided funding for a satellite broadband scheme called the remote area broadband inclusion trial (Rabbit). This trial was aimed at small businesses but is now closed.