Saturday, July 14, 2012

All about - Broadband Internet Speeds

Physical access to broadband is obviously the most important factor in gaining access to the Internet. However, broadband is delivered via different technologies, and the type of technology determines the range of speeds delivered to your computer. Many other factors will determine the speed of your connection and more importantly, how quickly you can access information, download files, or receive e-mails.

Speed = Quality
Speed can also determine the quality of the video you are watching, or audio you are listening to. Everyone has experienced frustrating delays waiting for a movie or song to download, or watching a movie that stutters and skips on your monitor, or displays a message indicating that your connection is “buffering.” (Buffering simply means your connection cannot handle the speed at which the video is being delivered to your computer screen, and must therefore momentarily collect data to play back, just as a printer collects data you send from your computer to print.) Depending on which application you are using, the speed of your connection will often determine whether it is even possible to run the application effectively. A movie is not enjoyable to watch if it takes twice as long to watch, and stops playing every few minutes. So, how fast of a connection do you need to perform specific tasks, and run certain programs?

Table of Broadband Speed Requirements for Common Applications

Download Speed Application Minimum Broadband Technology
768K - 1.5 Mbps Basic E-Mail, Web Browsing, VOIP- i.e. Vonage Cable, DSL, BPL, Satellite
1.5Mbps - 3 Mbps Streaming Music, Standard Definition Video (SD), Remote Surveillance, Telecommuting Cable, DSL, BPL, Satellite
3 Mbps - 6 Mbps File Sharing (Small/Med Files), IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) Cable, DSL, BPL, Satellite
6 Mbps - 10 Mbps Online Gaming, Video on Demand (i.e. Netflix) Cable & DSL (>6 Mbps Only), Fiber, 4G LTE
10 Mbps - 25Mbps Telemedicine, Remote Education, IPTV High Definition (HD) Fiber, 4G LTE
25 Mbps - 50 Mbps HD Video Surveillance Fiber, 4G LTE
50 Mbps - 100 Mbps Video Conferencing (Multiple users), Remote Supercomputing Fiber, 4G LTE, OC-1, OC-3
> 100Mbps Real-Time Data Collection, Real-Time Medical Image Consultation Fiber, 4G LTE, OC-3
Bandwidth vs. Speed
There are two different factors to consider when measuring speed. Bandwidth refers to the size of the conduit in which the data is travelling within. Speed refers to the rate at which the data is travelling at. Using that definition, you can quickly see that a larger bandwidth will permit more data to travel, which will also increase the rate at which it travels. However, this does not necessarily mean that the speed of your broadband connection will be the same as your bandwidth. Bandwidth simply refers to the size of the “pipe” in which it is travelling.

For example, let's say you're transferring a file at 128kbps. If you start to transfer another file it will compete for bandwidth and slow your speed down. If you increase your bandwidth by adding another 128kpbs ISDN line, your first file will still travel at 128kpbs, but now you can transfer both files at 128kbps without sacrificing speed. An analogy would be a highway with a 65mph speed limit. Even if more lanes were added to handle more vehicles, the speed limit is still 65mph.

Broadband Providers and Advertised Speeds
Broadband providers advertise speeds in ranges for this very reason. It is difficult to estimate specifically how fast a specific connection will be. Providers know they can provide a certain amount of bandwidth to handle specific amounts of data – but they do not know precisely when this data will be travelling, or when specific demands will be placed in the network. So, instead of promising speeds that would be impossible to continuously maintain, they offer speeds which fall within certain ranges. For example, one provider offers broadband Internet packages in the following ranges for download speeds:
  • 768 kbps to 1 Mbps
  • 1.5 Mbps to 3 Mbps
  • 4 Mbps to 7 Mbps
  • 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps
Your connection speed should fall within the ranges listed for the packages offered. The bandwidth for these offerings should not be less than the maximum speed listed. For example, you cannot have speeds of more than 15 Mbps with a bandwidth of 15 Mbps. Some providers offer speeds “up to certain speed.” In these cases, the “up to” speed is the bandwidth, which means that the speed you will actually experience could be much lower.

The Difference Between Upload and Download Speed for Broadband Bandwidth
In essence, there is no difference between uploading data and downloading data aside from the direction of the data transfer. The faster your Internet connection speed, the faster your uploading and downloading capability. Bandwidth plays an integral role in both your upload speed and your download speed. Ideally, upload and download speeds are most easily measured when they are symmetrical, which means the same speed for uploads and downloads. However, often providers only advertise the speed of the data in the fastest direction, which is usually the download speed. Download speeds are also usually much faster than upload speeds, because most Internet users retrieve data from the Internet – not transmit data and files to the Internet. If you are a user who uploads large files or other information over the Internet, you should look for faster upload speeds.

Units of Measurement - Megabits and megabytes
Broadband speed is measured in megabits per second, commonly stated as Mb or Mbps (i.e. 15Mb or 15 Mbps). Make sure you don't get confused between megabits and megabytes (which tends to be written as MB, or GB when referring to gigabytes). There are eight bits in a byte, so, if your download speed is 8 megabits per second (8Mb), then that's actually shifting 1 megabyte per second (1MB). It's an important distinction because the size of many files, including songs, photos, and movies, are described in megabytes, as are download allowances.

You may also see Kb and KB - kilobits and kilobytes; there are 1,024KB in a MB, and 1,024MB in a GB - the same is true for Kb/Mb/Gb.

Now that you are able to determine what speed you need to run the applications you want, which broadband technologies can you use to deliver those speeds?
By its very definition, broadband is a high speed Internet connection - which is also always on. Dial-up access, on the other hand, requires a modem to initiate a 56 Kbps connection to the Internet. The FCC raised the minimum speed of broadband to 4 Mbps downstream, and 1 Mbps upstream. This is now the new standard for a minimum broadband connection.

The FCC lays out an ambitious goal in the National Broadband Plan with regard to broadband speeds. The 100 squared initiative proposes to make 100 Mbps broadband available to 100 million people by 2020.

Broadband Technology and Speeds
Broadband Technology Download Speed Range Connection
Dial-up Up to 56kbps Phone Line
DSL 768 Kbps - 6 Mbps Phone Line
Satellite 400 Kbps - 2 Mbps Wireless Satellite
3G 50 Kbps - 1.5 Mbps Wireless
Cable Modem 4 Kbps - 25 Mbps Coaxial Cable
WiMax up to 128 Mbps Wireless
FiOS up to 150 Mbps Fiber
LTE up to 1 Gbps for mobile users Wireless

If you already have a broadband connection, how do you measure your connection speed?
A recent FCC survey found that 80 percent of broadband users in the United States don’t know the speed of their broadband connection. Many people don’t know what speed they are paying for, or what they are getting compared to what the broadband provider is claiming to offer.

Broadband Speed and Bandwidth
Broadband Speed will continue being an important factor – in differentiating competing broadband provider offerings, and for keeping up with increasing bandwidth appetites of emerging applications. Bandwidth is a precious and limited commodity, of which the FCC and Congress are grappling with. The Obama administration outlined a strategy to make 500 MHz of spectrum available for wireless broadband. The FCC responded with an initial proposal to free 115 MHz.

 How Much Broadband Speed Do You Need?
Carrier Technology Description Speed
Dial-up Access On demand access using a modem and regular telephone line (POT). 2400 bps to 56 Kbps
ISDN Dedicated telephone line and router required. 64 Kbps to 128 Kbps
Frame Relay Provides a type of "party line" connection to the Internet. 56 Kbps to 1.544 Mbps (or more, depending on connection type)
Fractional T1 Only a portion of the 23 channels available in a T1 line is actually used. 64 Kbps to 1.544 Mbps
T1 Special lines and equipment (DSU/CSU and router) required. 1.544 Mbps
Broadband over Power (BPL) Uses existing electrical infrastructure to deliver broadband speeds using BPL "modems" 500Kbps to 3Mbps
Satellite Latency is a problem with this technology, which makes this technology difficult to use for application such as video streaming and gaming. 6 Mbps or more
ADSL/DSL Uses the digital portion of a regular copper telephone line to transmit and receive information. 128 Kbps to 8 Mbps
Cable Special cable modem and coaxial cable line required. (Bandwidth varies greatly depending on other users and time of day.) 512 Kbps to 20 Mbps
Wireless (LMCS) Access is gained by connection to a high speed cellular like local multi-point communications system (LMCS) network via wireless transmitter/receiver. 30 Mbps or more
T3 Typically used for ISP to Internet infrastructure. 44.736 Mbps
OC-1 Typically used for ISP to Internet infrastructure within Internet infrastructure. 51.84 Mbps
4G / LTE Next Generation Wireless Access (Only available in certain areas.) 100 Mbps
Fiber Wireline fiberoptic connection 5 Mbps to 150 Mbps
OC-3 Typically used for large company backbone or Internet backbone. 155.52 Mbps

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