July 27, 2006

Introduction to Broadband

Broadband Internet refers to two things – an Internet connection that is faster then narrowband or dialup, and one that is always available. A few years ago Broadband was a pipe dream for most Australians but the last 24 months has seen a reduction in the cost of Broadband to the point where, in most cases it is cheaper then having a dialup service. The term ‘Broadband’ refers to the speed of the network connection rather than the type of connection.

Broadband Speeds

Typically, broadband speed is anything faster then dialup or ‘narrowband’. When discussing network speeds the common unit is Kbps or Kilobits per second. However, thinking about Broadband in terms of ‘how much faster’ is more useful. Think of an average file – lets say a 3 mintue MP3 music track (3Mb). Over a dialup connection downloading this file might take 10 mins. Over a ‘basic’ broadband connection downloading this file might take 3 mins, and over a ‘fast’ broadband connection might take 60 seconds.

Broadband packages are priced according to two variables; download/upload speed and total downloads available. You’ll pay more for a plan that gives you high speeds and greater downloads.

A standard broadband connection is 256Kbps (or 5 times faster then dialup). A better plan might give you 512Kbps and a top plan might be 1500Kpbs.

Connection Types

After you’ve decided on your plan you’ll need to consider the type of connection. The main types available in Australia are:

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line)
ADSL runs over your existing telephone line and doesn’t interfere with your normal telephone line. It’s simple to setup and the most popular broadband connection in Australia.

Cable broadband operates over the Foxtel cable. If you can get cable at your home then you can probably get cable. Cable connections are generally faster then ADSL for around the same monthly fee.

Wireless broadband is relatively new in Australia but is growing in popularity. A wireless modem (either card or USB) communicates via radio signal to a receiver in your neighbourhood. Wireless internet is especially convenient if you are using a laptop as you’ll have access from anywhere you are. Additionally, if you not eligible for either ADSL or Cable, Wireless provides another solution.

Choosing a provider

Nearly all ISP’s that offered dialup Internet now give you a broadband option. The biggest provider of broadband in Australia is Telstra Bigpond. Bigpond offers the whole spectrum of broadband options, including ADSL, Cable, Satellite, Wireless and even ISDN. If you need a provider that offers all the options and gives you the ability to put all of your telecommunications needs on one bill you can’t go past Telstra. In the last 12 months their service levels have improved to the point where they are now rated as one of the most reliable providers in Australia.

It is important to understand the contract you are entering when signing up to Broadband. You’ll also need to understand how much flexibility you have if your requirements change. For example, can you increase your download limit and what are the costs associated with using more than your allowance. Also, does your ISP provide a backup dialup service if your Broadband service goes down.

Once you’ve decided on a provider signing up is simple. If you choose Telstra you’ll be able to walk into a Telstra store and pickup a modem and organize the self-installation. If you choose another provider the best way to sign up is through their website.