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A primer on broadband

What is broadband?

Put simply, the term “broadband” refers to a high-speed connection to the Internet. But the answer to the question doesn’t stay simple.

First, there are a number of technologies that can provide this connection. The main ones are DSL over copper phone lines, cable service over coaxial cable, fibre optic cable and wireless signals coming from fixed towers or from satellites. Each of these has its own characteristics involving price, area of coverage and technology constraints.

And second, the definition of what is high-speed is changing regularly. Late in 2010, for example, OFCOM officially raised the speed that it considers broadband, overnight expanding the geographic areas that are considered unserved. It will come as no surprise that dial-up service, still some people’s choice, is not considered broadband service.

How fast is fast enough?

The answer depends on what you want to do. A guide:

Less than 1 megabit per second — Allows you to send email, browse simple websites on the Internet, watch low-quality video on YouTube.

From 1 to 5 megabits per second — Allows browsing of complex web sites, attaching large files to email, streaming music, performing basic telecommuting functions, watching some video.

From 5 to 10 megabits per second — Allows more complex telecommuting, sharing large files, watching high-definition video, playing sophisticated games, participating in basic remote diagnostic medical functions and remote education.

From 10 to 100 megabits — Allows full telemedicine and educational services, telecommuting with high-quality video, using high definition surveillance, playing very complex games.

At least two caveats apply: The speed you get can vary from one time to another and often does not reach the maximum speed your provider advertises as “up to” a certain speed. And very often, available services provide a substantially slower speed for uploading material to the web than the download speed for obtaining material from the web.

Who provides service?

By far most people buy service from either their telephone company or their cable TV company. For the most part, phone companies such as BT provide service over the copper lines they have invested heavily in over decades, and technology has increased the speeds this DSL service can deliver. Likewise, cable companies such as Virgin Media deliver broadband service via the coaxial cable they invested in for TV signals, and here, too, technology has increased speeds.

Fixed wireless providers provide alternatives to the phone and cable companies.

Big national companies offer mobile wireless Internet service via their 3G and 4G (third generation and fourth generation) service.

Some phone companies, typically small independently owned or cooperative operations, have led the way in installing fibre optic cable, which has a number of advantages in the long run. It can be much faster than DSL or cable and more reliable than wireless.

Should Internet service be a private or a public good?

A huge question has arisen over how to pay for investment in the infrastructure, whatever technology it uses.

To this point, this has been a question of the private market. Existing private service companies have spent millions to upgrade and expand their services.

In some places, however, communities have created their own organisations to supply service. There are hybrids as well, that involve partnerships between private providers and local government officials.

Is wireless the answer in remote places?

Some people argue that it is the most cost effective means to provide service where homes and businesses are scattered and where laying fibre is expensive.

Others consider wireless second class because speeds will never match good wired connections and because terrain can wreak havoc in many areas. Satellite service has the limiting characteristic of slight delays that make, for example, video phone connections difficult.

So how can Rustyice Solutions make a difference?

At Rustyice Solutions we have partnered with Mushroom Networks to provide UK and Irish homes and businesses the opportunity to work around this bottleneck today. Our solutions utilise the latest patent pending technology from Mushroom Networks to bundle connections together in an aggregated fashion thereby bringing benefits such as provider diversity and true bandwidth aggregation allowing the creation of cost effective high bandwidth connections with which to enjoy the most demanding of todays network services. Contact us today to discuss how Rustyice Solutions can make a difference.

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