There are many ways a personal electronic device can connect to the internet. They all use different hardware and each has a range of connection speeds. As technology changes, faster internet connections are needed to handle those changes. I thought it would be interesting to list some of the different types of internet connections that are available for home and personal use, paired with their average speeds.
Dial-Up (Analog 56K).
Dial-up access is cheap but slow. A modem (internal or external) connects to the Internet after the computer dials a phone number. This analog signal is converted to digital via the modem and sent over a land-line serviced by a public telephone network. Telephone lines are variable in quality and the connection can be poor at times. The lines regularly experience interference and this affects the speed, anywhere from 28K to 56K. Since a computer or other device shares the same line as the telephone, they can’t be active at the same time.
DSL. DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. It is an internet connection that is always “on”. This uses 2 lines so your phone is not tied up when your computer is connected. There is also no need to dial a phone number to connect. DSL uses a router to transport data and the range of connection speed, depending on the service offered, is between 128K to 8 Mbps.
Cable. Cable provides an internet connection through a cable modem and operates over cable TV lines. There are different speeds depending on if you are uploading data transmissions or downloading. Since the coax cable provides a much greater bandwidth over dial-up or DSL telephone lines, you can get faster access. Cable speeds range from 512K to 20 Mbps.
Wireless. Wireless, or Wi-Fi, as the name suggests, does not use telephone lines or cables to connect to the internet. Instead, it uses radio frequency. Wireless is also an always on connection and it can be accessed from just about anywhere. Wireless networks are growing in coverage areas by the minute so when I mean access from just about anywhere, I really mean it. Speeds will vary, and the range is between 5 Mbps to 20 Mbps.
Satellite. Satellite accesses the internet via a satellite in Earth’s orbit. The enormous distance that a signal travels from earth to satellite and back again, provides a delayed connection compared to cable and DSL. Satellite connection speeds are around 512K to 2.0 Mbps.
Cellular. Cellular technology provides wireless Internet access through cell phones. The speeds vary depending on the provider, but the most common are 3G and 4G speeds. A 3G is a term that describes a 3rd generation cellular network obtaining mobile speeds of around 2.0 Mbps. 4G is the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards. The goal of 4G is to achieve peak mobile speeds of 100 Mbps but the reality is about 21 Mbps currently.