Monday, June 26, 2006

Reference: Type of Internet Access (updated)

Have you ever considered all the different type of Internet access we have these days. Most people might only think of cable, DSL, or dial-up as their only choices. Although, in reality there are several different types of access available all with very different advantages and disadvantages.

This list was created to be the most complete reference to the different types of Internet access available. It also provides a brief summary of each technology:
  • Dial-up: One of the oldest forms of Internet access, and is mostly used in areas that don't offer any other connection types. The maximum connection speed of this service is 56Kbps (and that's only theoretical). Dial-up has been slowly losing market share for years to faster technologies.
    • Pros: Inexpensive, and available more places then almost any other type of Internet access. All you need is a phone, modem, and an ISP account.
    • Cons: Very slow and unreliable when compared to other 'always on' Internet connections.
  • ISDN: One of the oldest form of high-speed Internet access, generally has a maximum bandwidth throughput of about 128Kbps. It is still available in some areas. It also used to be expensive, and difficult to setup, I am not sure if they have really improved this that much.
    • Pros: Its twice as fast as dial-up.
    • Cons: Limited availability, and speed.
  • Cable/DSL: Are the most popular forms of high-speed 'always on' Internet access available. It is available in several different speeds (1-6Mbps, and faster). These technologies are widely available, and the coverage is constantly being expanded. Although, its not available in all areas, contact your phone/cable provider to see if this is an option for you.
    • Pros: Fast connections, and different download speeds are available for different fees.
    • Cons: Generally requires you to get some form of extra cable/phone service when you sign up for it.
  • Cellular: Cellular providers such Sprint and Verizon offer high-speed Internet access using your cell phone via technologies like EV-DO networking. The speeds (from about 300kbps - 1.2Mbps) will vary greatly from location-to-location, and provider-to-provider. Its a great option to have if you're on the road in the middle of nowhere and need Internet access.
    • Pros: Its available anywhere you can get a cellular signal for that provider.
    • Cons: Can be expensive, and the speeds are limited.
    • Update: Some new laptops are now coming with a new ExpressCard slot, which offers fast cellular connections while on the road. Although the service is not cheap, its $59.99/month if you have a Verizon voice plan, or $79.99/month if you don't.
  • Wireless: This option is available in some metropolitan and rural areas. It can offer an alternative the cable, DSL or dial-up. Generally it doesn't require you to purchase extra services that you may not need. Intel is trying to push their technology called WiMAX into this area.
    • Pros: Fast connections, and different download speeds are available.
    • Cons: Coverage is limited. Prices and speeds will also vary widely from ISP to ISP.
  • Satellite: For people who want high-speed Internet access, but no other option is available. This service is generally available just about anywhere you have unobstructed line-sight access to the satellite.
    • Pros: Available almost anywhere, and different download speeds are available for different costs.
    • Cons: All satellite connections are high latency, which means the first few seconds of the connection are slow. This is because of physics and not technology, energy can only travel so fast. The equipment is also expensive.
  • FiOS: Verizon is offering FiOS (Fiber Optic Services) which is fiber to the home. This is one of the fastest Internet connections available for the home or small office, that is also reasonably priced. Cable, and DSL have current maximum speeds of about 1-6Mbps, while FiOS offers speeds up to 30Mbps.
    • Pros: One of the fastest ways to connect to the Internet.
    • Cons: Very limited availability for now.
  • Dedicated Circuit: This is an option used by most medium and large size businesses. The speeds that are available are amazing, but the prices that you pay for this service and the equipment are equally amazing. For more information contact your phone company or ISP.
    • Pros: Just about any speed is available to you, with very reliable access.
    • Cons: Very expensive, and requires equally expensive equipment.
This is kind of an honorable mention area. These technologies are what I would classify as 'experimental', but could one day be another type of Internet access that is available to you.
  • Power line: Basically your power provider would also be your ISP, and your Internet connectivity is over your existing power lines in your house. The technology only appears to be available in Europe for right now.
  • Gas line: Basically your gas provider would also be your ISP, and your Internet connectivity is over your existing gas line in your house. Currently there is no announcement when the technology will be available.
  • All high-speed ISPs require you to have some type of proprietary networking equipment to use their service. Although, some ISPs will give you the equipment as part of the service and others will rent it to you.
  • All the speeds listed in the article reference the download speeds and not the upload speeds. Upload speeds are generally a fraction of the download speeds. Contact your ISP to get more information.
  • There are several types of DSL (such as ADSL, HDSL, IDSL, VDSL, and SDSL), each of these types of DSL technologies are designed to meet different needs of the ISP who is providing it.

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