December 1, 2005

How fast is Broadband?

The term broadband simply refers to fast Internet access. I think it easiest to think in terms a water pipe. If you have a narrow pipe only a small amount of water can flow through at a time, however if you increase the diameter of the pipe more water can flow through in the same amount of time. Now, instead of water flowing think in terms of data.

A narrow pipe is called ‘Narrow band’ and is typically what you get when you are using a modem and a dialup connection. There are different dial-up speeds, the most common is 56Kbps. A broad pipe is called “Broadband” and the minimum speeds available are 256Kbps. In relative terms 256Kbps is about 5 times the speed of dial up. For some people this is adequate however in my opinion shouldn’t really be referred to as broadband.

So what about the difference between ADSL and Cable? Well, think about the difference between a black pipe and a white pipe. Both carry water but look a little different. Theoretically, the maximum diameter of each pipe is different but in reality this is unimportant.

The only providers of cable in Australia are Optus and Telstra. In my opinion Optus cable is far superior not because it is fastest, but because Telstra cable uses an antiquated connection system that is often faulty and very unreliable. Both offer similar plans but if you have the choice go for Optus.

With ADSL there are many more providers because ADSL runs over regular phone lines. In fact ADSL can run side by side with your voice line so being on the internet won’t mean your phone is engaged.

In terms of providers I like both iiNet and Optus. Both offer are competitively priced and offer a reliable connection. However, Optus offer a minimum plan of 512Kbps while iiNet (for around the same amount) offer 1500Kbps. On the negative iiNet have just merged with Ozemail and have caused some users much frustration with long support delays and occasional network instability.

Regardless of the broadband provider you choose, make sure you choose broadband. Even if you only send the occasional email, or browse the occasional website broadband will improve your experience. Plus, these days total cost of broadband is often cheaper then dialup – when you factor in the 25c each time you connect.