At this particular turn of the decade, internet connectivity has gained vital importance.

With hundreds of people staying at home due to the coronavirus threat, this technology has become the sole means of accomplishing daily tasks and interacting with loved ones, from a safe distance.

It enables people to bridge distances, access information, run an online business, seek entertainment, control smart devices, learn a craft, participate in a gaming marathon, shop for groceries, and work remotely without having to step out of their rooms.

Such is the breathtaking speed and convenience that the internet technology provides!

Are you planning to upgrade your internet service to make sure that there is enough bandwidth for all the individuals in your household?

Do you wish to get the perfect broadband connection for your newly started business? Have you decided on an internet type yet? If you find yourself asking these questions, then you have come to the right place.

This post will take you through the main internet terminology and the four major internet types, so you can make a wise decision and experience the best of connectivity.


Let’s Start with the Basic Internet Terminology

You might have heard of these terms in the passing, but knowing them fully well before diving into the deeper research will benefit you in the long run.

Bandwidth

The maximum capacity of a wired or wireless internet connection to transmit data from one point to another in a network at one time is called bandwidth. The higher bandwidth a connection has the more packets of data it can send and receive in an instant. It is measured in bits per second or bps.

Internet Speed

The rate at which data travels between the World Wide Web and the devices in a network is called internet speed. It is usually measured in megabits per second or Mbps.

Download Speed

The rate at which data travels from the webserver to a user’s devices is called download speed. Listening to music on Spotify, streaming Netflix and saving large files - all qualify as downloads. A good download speed is 25 Mbps.

Upload Speed

The rate at which data is pushed from the user’s devices to the webserver is called upload speed. Sending emails, video calling a friend and playing a LIVE online game - all require you to send information to the web, and are uploads. A good upload speed is 3 Mbps.

Broadband

t is an umbrella term that refers to any high-speed internet access that is ‘always on’ and faster than the ancient Dial-Up system. According to FCC’s 2015 report, only an internet connection with a minimum of 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed can be classified as broadband. It can be wireline or wireless.

Now that your concepts are clearer, you can move on to the major internet service types and unfold them one by one.

Comparing the Major Internet Connection Types

The reason why people often find it difficult to choose one internet service over the other is that all of them have their own unique selling points, benefits, and flaws. Where one fails to cater, the other excels. So on and so forth. That is why we encourage you to study each type in detail, before taking your pick.

DSL Internet: Slow but Extensive

Digital Subscriber Line is a ‘wireline’ broadband service that leverages the existing telephone lines to transmit internet signals to people’s homes.

It is the first widely available internet type to have succeeded Dial-Up, which also relies on telephone wires but restricts simultaneous usage. Whereas, with a DSL connection, you can use the internet and the phone service at the same time.

The credit goes to its advanced cable technology that consists of two separate wires wound around each other, reducing any chances of interference. You will need a DSL modem to translate the signals sent by a provider into data that can be easily read by your router or other devices.


Quick Facts

  •   DSL nationwide availability: 90%
  •   Average download speed: 5 – 35 Mbps
  •   Average upload speed: 1 – 10 Mbps

Recently, many DSL providers tend to modify the basic DSL internet speeds by combining the copper infrastructure with high-end technology, such as fiber-optic. In this case, the signals are pushed from a fiber optic node and as they travel to the subscriber’s home, switch to the copper wires. That is why experts call DSL a “last mile” connection.

There are 14 different types of DSL services, each working on their own frequency and with their own protocols, but the two that stand out are ADSL and SDSL. ADSL is an “asymmetric” connection that has a faster download speed than upload. SDSL are “symmetric” connections that have more or less the same download and upload speed. ADSL upgrades (ADSL2 and ADSL2 ) have greater availability than SDSL.

Let’s look at the benefits and flaws of a DSL internet connection:

ProsCons
1. Wider coverage than other connection types$1. Lower speed range
2. Cheaper plans and installation costs2. Copper cabling prone to electromagnetic interference
3. A direct link between the ISP and residence eliminates peak-hour latency3. Connection quality suffers if the distance between the ISP and residence increases

Some of the major internet service providers who offer moderate to high DSL speeds are AT&T and Windstream.

Cable Internet: Reliable but Chokes Up

This internet type leverages the existing television cables in a community to transfer broadband speeds to consumers’ homes. The cables are copper-based like DSL, but their coaxial infrastructure enables them to support higher frequencies and faster speeds.


Quick Facts

  •   Nationwide availability: 89%
  •   Average download speed: 10 – 500 Mbps
  •   Average upload speed: 5 – 50 Mbps

The thing about cable internet is that it is ‘shared’. Meaning, when a provider sends internet signals your way, they are first received by a community node and then from there, divided between each connected home. For instance, you might have to suffer a 20% speed slowdown if all your neighbors start streaming Netflix at the same time.

To avoid this bandwidth throttling, many providers like Charter use the latest cable technology standard i.e. DOCSIS 3.0 in their modems, which boosts capacity and improves quality. Because of this, Spectrum internet speeds go as high as 400 Mbps in certain neighborhoods.

In addition to that, some cable companies also offer dedicated lines to consumers so they don’t have to share their connection. These cables run straight from the provider’s office to your home, but since they are premium, they can be costly.

Another way ISPs tackle the peak-hour slowdown and enhance internet speed is by using an HFC modification. HFC stands for Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial, and just as its name suggests, it empowers a cable connection with fiber-optic speeds. Take Mediacom internet, for instance. It is delivered to a subscriber’s home from a fiber-optic node, which becomes coaxial on the “last mile.” This is how, through rich propulsion, the loss of signals is prevented.

Cable internet has multiple merits and a few demerits. The following are the top ones:

ProsCons
1. Faster speeds than DSL1. Limited accessibility in rural areas
2. Ideal for TV & internet bundles2. Peak-hour slowdowns
3. Large coverage area3. Cabling susceptible to electromagnetic interference

Xfinity, Optimum and Cox internet are some of the finest iterations of cable internet which you will find in the telecom market.

Fiber Internet: Faster but Costlier

Fiber is a newcomer in the broadband race, but this fact hasn’t stopped it from becoming the gold standard internet service for both residential and business customers. Its technology is so sophisticated that leaves all conceptions of copper cables behind.

Fiber internet uses glass-based fiber-optic cables to transmit network signals to people’s homes. These signals are not carried in the form of electrical charges, as is the case with cable and DSL, but in the form of light pulses, which paves the way for extremely fast speed, higher data capacity and connection consistency.


Quick Facts

  •   Nationwide availability: 25%
  •   Average download speed: 250 – 1000 Mbps
  •   Average upload speed: 250 – 1000 Mbps

As you can see, fiber internet speeds are symmetrical or matching. So, whatever you do online, play those giant MMORPG games or send thousands of emails in a row, your download and upload speeds will not waver, nor will they slow down.

There are several fiber connection types recognized by FCC, and each one dictates the kind of broadband speed that will reach your home.

FTTN or Fiber to the Neighborhood/Node deploys powerful fiber speeds to a shared neighborhood network box, from which the internet signals travel through copper cables to the designated residences.

FTTN or Fiber to the Neighborhood/Node deploys powerful fiber speeds to a shared neighborhood network box, from which the internet signals travel through copper cables to the designated residences.

FTTC or Fiber to the Curb sends fiber speeds directly to curbside street cabinets or poles, and from there copper wires bridge the gap between the cabinets and people’s homes.

FTTB or Fiber to the Building carries fiber internet straight up to an apartment complex, from where it is sent to individual rooms via copper cables.

Finally, FTTH or Fiber to the Home is a direct and pure link between the fiber internet provider and the subscriber’s residence, without copper mediation, rendering startling speeds but suffering from costlier installation.

Here are fiber internet’s strong and weak points:

ProsCons
1. Next-generation 1 Gig speeds1. Speed range may be overkill for an average consumer’s pocket
2. Sophisticated wiring safe from electromagnetic interference2. Costly installation
3. Increasing scalability3. High-maintenance cabling

You can download 1 GB file in under three seconds if you subscribe to Verizon Fios or AT&T Fiber – the leading providers of fiber internet.

Satellite Internet: Feasible but Capped

This is a wireless broadband connection that leverages the orbiting satellites to transmit internet signals to consumers’ homes. These satellites are geosynchronous, meaning they stay at the same point above the planet and match the earth’s rotation.

The provider beams internet signals to a satellite stationed in the outer space, which then sends those signals down to the dish located on your roof, ideally facing the southern sky. The signals from the dish are translated by a gateway and fed into the nearby data-hungry devices.


Quick Facts

  •   Nationwide availability: 100%
  •   Average download speed: 1 – 100 Mbps
  •   Average upload speed: 1 – 4 Mbps

Given its remarkable coverage, satellite internet is ideal for people who live on the outskirts of cities and cannot get access to a cable line. However, the distance between the satellite and the dish strips the internet signals off their potency and speed, which is why most of the satellite users experience occasional latency. Regardless of these technological limitations, many providers are working towards boosting the speed range by launching better-than-before satellites in outer space.

Satellite internet has a number of pros and cons, and these are:

ProsCons
1. Perfect coverage across all 50 U.S. states1. Slower speeds than DSL, cable, and fiber
2. Quicker recovery after a disaster2. Annoying data caps and long-term contracts
3. Cheaper as compared to mobile hotspots3. Highly susceptible to weather interference

Both ViaSat and HughesNet®, the best satellite internet providers, promise up to 100 Mbps speeds in the coming years, which will relieve rural customers, and keep those struck by natural disasters constantly connected.

Are There Any Other Internet Types?

Cellular internet and Fixed Wireless are additional internet types that people use in case wireline connections are not available.

Cellular internet is a type of wireless broadband, which delivers internet signals to users’ devices in the form of cell phone frequencies, emitted via large towers. 4G LTE is the most popular standard of cellular internet (though 5G is slowly coming in sight) and it is offered by mobile carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile.

Fixed Wireless works on more or less the same principle. It transmits internet access to a single location in the form of radio waves from a nearby tower. These signals are tapped by an antenna and eliminate the need for wires. Fixed Wireless has 51% nationwide coverage and some of its major providers are Rise Broadband, NextLink, and King Street Wireless, etc.


Wrapping Up

Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ve seen so far:

Internet TypeAvailabilityAffordabilitySpeed
DSLVery HighHighModerate
CableHighModerateHigh
FiberLowLowVery High
SatelliteVery HighModerateLow

The main takeaway is that there is no winner in this race. Each internet type comes with its own utility. The only way out of it is to evaluate your personal needs and match them with the type that corresponds to them the best.