Broadband transmission rates
|DS1 (Tier 1)|| 1.544 Mbit/s
|DS3 (Tier 3)|| 44.736 Mbit/s
|OC3|| 155.52 Mbit/s
|OC12|| 622.08 Mbit/s
|OC48|| 2.488 Gbit/s
|OC192|| 9.953 Gbit/s
|OC768|| 39.813 Gbit/s
|OC1536|| 79.6 Gbit/s
|OC3072|| 159.2 Gbit/s
Broadband Internet access became a rapidly developing market in many areas in the early 2000s; one study found that broadband Internet usage in the United States grew from 6% in June 2000 to over 30% in 2003.
Modern consumer broadband implementations, up to 20 Mbits/s, are several hundred times faster than those available at the time of introduction (such as ISDN and 56K) while costing less than ISDN and sometimes to more than 56K; though performance and costs vary widely between countries.
In general, any connection to the customer of 256 kbit/s (0.256 Mb/s) or more is considered broadband Internet. The International Telecommunication Union Standardization Sector (ITU-T) recommendation I.113 has defined broadband as a transmission capacity that is faster than primary rate ISDN, at 1.5 to 2 Mbit/s. The FCC definition of broadband is 200 kbit/s (0.2 Mb/s) in one direction, and advanced broadband is at least 200 kbit/s in both directions. The OECD has defined broadband as 256 kbit/s in at least one direction and this bit rate is the most common baseline that is marketed as "broadband" around the world. There is no specific bitrate defined by the industry, however, and "broadband" can mean lower-bitrate transmission methods. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use this to advantage, in marketing lower-bitrate connections as broadband.
Broadband is often called high-speed Internet, because it usually has a high rate of data. In practice, the advertised bandwidth is not always reliably available to the customer; ISPs often allow a greater number of subscribers than their backbone connection can handle, under the assumption that most users will not be using their full connection capacity very frequently. This aggregation strategy works more often than not, so users can typically burst to their full bandwidth most of the time; however, peer-to-peer file sharing systems, often requiring extended durations of high bandwidth, stress these assumptions, and can cause major problems for ISPs who have excessively overbooked their capacity. For more on this topic, see network traffic engineering .
As takeup for this introductory products increases, telcos are starting to offer higher bit rate services. For existing connections, this most of the time simply involves reconfiguring the existing equipment at each end of the connection.
Newer technologies for twisted pair phone lines such as VDSL and pushing fiber optic connections closer to the subscriber in both telephone and cable plants are opening up the possibility of higher performance for streaming data, such as audio and video streams. There are now many streaming audio services, and several streaming video services. Broadband Internet access also facilitates the use of file sharing software.
In a few of the many areas not served by cable or ADSL, community organizations have begun to install Wi-Fi networks.
The data rates on most broadband services still do not suffice to provide good quality video, as MPEG-2 quality video requires about 6 Mbit/s for good results. Adequate video for some purposes becomes possible at lower data rates, with rates of 768 kbit/s and 384 kbit/s used for some video conferencing applications. The MPEG-4 format delivers high-quality video at 2 Mbit/s, at the high end of cable modem and ADSL performance. The Ogg Tarkin format is intended to deliver similar performance.
Rural Broadband in the United States
One of the great challenges of broadband is to provide service to potential customers in areas of low population density, such as to farmers and ranchers. In cities where the population density is high, it is easy for a service provider to recover equipment costs, but each rural customer may require thousands of dollars of equipment to get connected. A similar problem existed a century ago when electrical power was invented. Cities were the first to receive electric lighting, as early as 1880, while some remote rural areas were still not electrified until the 1940's, and even then only with the help of federally-funded programs like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
Rural Broadband Options
Several rural broadband solutions exist, though each has its own pitfalls and limitations. Some choices are better than others, but depend on how proactive the local phone company is about upgrading their rural technology.
This employs a satellite in geostationary orbit to relay data from the satellite company to each customer. This service typically suffers from equipment and installation costs exceeding $600 (the FCC requires professional installation to prevent interference issues), and high monthly service costs of $70 or more.
Satellite Internet also has a high latency problem caused by the signal having to travel 22,000 miles out into space to the satellite and back to Earth again. The signal delay can be as much as 500ms to 900ms (.5 to .9 seconds), which makes this service unsuitable for applications such as multiplayer Internet gaming or live interactive access to a distant computer, but tolerable for just basic email access and web browsing.
This allows a service provider to set up DSL hardware out in the country in a weatherproof enclosure. However, setup costs can be quite high since the service provider may need to install fiberoptic cable to the remote location, using horizontal boring equipment at a cost of $1 million per mile. Also, the remote site has the same distance limits as the metropolitan service, and can only serve an island of customers along the trunk line within a radius of about 7000 feet (1.5 miles).
Remote DSL access is becoming a sore point for many rural customers, as the technology has been available for some time now and phone companies keep promoting its availability, but at the same time the phone companies keep dragging their feet and are not doing anything to install the remote services. This is particularly a problem with the very large multistate conglomerates that serve mostly rural areas.
This is a very new technology which allow DSL to travel longer distances to remote customers. One version of the repeater is installed every 10,000 feet or so along the trunk line, and strengthens and cleans up the DSL signal so it can travel another 10,000 feet.
This is a new service still in its infancy that may eventually permit broadband Internet data to travel down standard high-voltage power lines. However, the system has a number of complex issues, the primary one being that power lines are inherently a very noisy environment. Every time a device turns on or off, it introduces a pop or click into the line. Energy-saving devices often introduce noisy harmonics into the line. The system must be designed to deal with these natural signaling disruptions and work around them.
The second major issue is signal strength and operating frequency. The system is expected to use frequencies in the 10 to 30 MHz range, which has been used for decades by ham radio operators. Power lines are unshielded and will act as transmitters for the signals they carry, and have the potential to completely wipe out the usefulness of the 10-30 MHz range for shortwave communications purposes.
This typically employs the current low-cost 802.11 Wi-Fi radio systems to link up remote locations over great distances, but can use other higher-power radio communications systems as well.
Traditional 802.11b was licensed for omnidirectional service spanning only 300 to 500 feet. By focusing the signal down to a narrow beam with a yagi antenna it can instead operate reliably over a distance of many miles.
Rural Wireless-ISP installations are typically not commercial in nature and are instead a patchwork of systems built up by hobbyists mounting antennas on masts, towers, argicultural storage silos, very tall trees, or whatever other tall objects are available.
This is an older telephone data service that can operate at speeds of up to 128 kilobits/sec. It is therefore not really considered a true form of broadband, but it does have the advantage that it can share an existing phone line, and it has no distance limitations like DSL. When a phone call occurs, some of the bandwidth is allocated to the call, reducing the connection speed. When the call ends, the connection increases speed again. ISDN is a relatively low-cost option for rural users with otherwise terrible dialup access speeds, but it is starting be phased out and is no longer available in some areas.
This type of service is possible for a rural customer desiring broadband speeds, but the cost can be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars per month depending on the distance from the provider.
These are highly-regulated services traditionally intended for businesses, that are managed through Public Service Commisions in each state, must be fully defined in PSC tariff documents , and have management rules dating back to the early 1980s which still refer to teletypes as potential connection devices.
As such, T-1 services have very strict and rigid service requirements which drive up the provider's maintenance costs and may require them to have a technician on standby 24 hours a day to repair the line if it malfunctions. (In comparison, ISDN and DSL are not regulated by the PSCs at all.)
Rent the pipe, Pay for the water
People attempting to establish rural service via a Wireless ISP, ISDN, or T-1 will run into an additional cost issue, where the physical connection (or local loop) is considered separate from the actual Internet service provided from a Point of Presence (POP).
This is as if you had to pay the water utility to rent the water main in the ground, in addition to paying to get water delivered through the main from the tower. For a T-1, for example, the loop alone may cost $1200 per month, and the 1.5 megabit business-class Internet service (with fixed a IP address and a subnet) may cost an additional $1000 per month.
Fees, Fees, and More Fees
Attempting to reduce monthly costs by establishing your own non-profit Wi-Fi network and sharing the T-1 connection costs has an additional pitfall: your service provider may want to charge you an additional "ISP reseller's fee" of $800 per month.
Broadband facts in various countries
On August 13, 2004 the ISP Wanadoo (formerly Freeserve in the UK) were told by the Advertising Standards Authority to change the way that they advertised their 512 kbit/s broadband service in Britain, removing the words "full speed" which rival companies claimed was misleading people into thinking it was the fastest available service. In a similar way, on April 9, 2003 the Advertising Standards Authority ruled against ISP NTL, saying that NTL's 128 kbit/s cable modem service must not be marketed as "broadband".
The competition between the major broadband Internet providers in Canada has recently caused frequent increases in the available bandwidth provided to home users. As of May 2004, a standard broadband Internet package provides 3.0 Mbit/s downstream and 300 kbit/s upstream rates for both cable- and DSL-based services. Some residential service providers (such as Cogeco or Rogers) offer speeds of 5 Mbit/s or higher.
In metropolitan France, intense competition between internet service providers has led to to the introduction of moderately-priced high speed ADSL (up to 20 Mbits/s for 30€ per month), often including other services such as unlimited free VoIP telephone communications to land lines, and digital television. Conventional dial-up Internet is increasingly considered as outdated. In the third quarter of 2003, the number of broadband subscribers (ADSL or cable) was estimated to about 5 million, out of 24 million Internet users.
In Ireland, the telephone monopoly Eircom resisted the introduction of broadband because they were making so much money from per-minute billing on 56K dialup. A consumer pressure group, IrelandOffline, was set up which was successful in convincing the government to force Eircom to introduce flat-rate dialup billing. This set the stage for the introduction of true broadband services by other ISPs (and then Eircom). Because Eircom had not invested in modern telecommunications infrastructure, however, most localities in rural Ireland are unable to get DSL over copper. The Group Data Scheme Society, an Irish cooperative, has organised to help local communities set up their own internet networks whether with wireless or other technologies.
In Sweden household broadband is mainly available through cable and xDSL, but in many places also through copper Ethernet LAN networked via fibre MANs connecting buildings. Symmetric broadband Internet access of 100 Mbit/s is available for USD 54 a month, as of november 2004.
In Australia the telephone monopoly Telstra artificially limits ADSL speeds to 1.5Mbit/s downstream and 256 kbit/s upstream. It is legally required to sell its ADSL service wholesale to other ISPs, but not its Cable network, which has a speed of 10Mbit/s. Telstra refuses to provide wholesale Internet access to its Cable network. It is widely believed Telstra limits their ADSL speed to 1.5Mbits/s to avoid 'income substitution' as they continue to earn access fees 10-50 times higher than typical Australian ADSL service fees for older generation 'E1', 'ATM' and 'Frame Relay' services. Telstra delayed the initial introduction of ADSL into Australia for the same reason. It is also believed that this limit is designed to hinder the adoption of new technologies such as streaming video, IP-TV and VoIP, again to avoid 'income substitution', because in addition to telephony, Telstra has a 50% stake in the pay TV service Foxtel. Recently, however, other ISPs such as iiNet, Internode and Primus have installed their own DSLAMs in Telstra exchanges, offering customers speeds up to the ADSL limit of 8 Mbit/sec. Internode has released and is now providing ADSL services of up to 12 Mbit/sec , with iiNet trialling  similar services without any firm release plans. Once the ADSL2+ standard is approved for use in Australia (expected to be around June/July 2005), these ISPs can offer speeds up to 24Mbit/s. Telstra have announced  their plans to offer ADSL2+ in 2006, but with their current ADSL speeds limited, it is likely their ADSL2+ service will not reach 24Mbit/s either.
As the bandwidth delivered to end-users increases, the market expects that video on demand services streamed over the Internet will become more popular, though at the present time such services generally require specialised networks.
Increased bandwidth has already made an impact on newsgroups: postings to groups such as alt.binaries.* have grown from JPEG images to entire CD and DVD images. According to NTL, the level of traffic on their network increased from a daily inbound news feed of 150 gigabytes of data per day and 1 terabyte of data out each day in 2001 to 500 gigabytes of data inbound and over 4 terabytes out each day in 2002.