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 Podcast #4 – Just What is Broadband, Anyway?
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Posted - February 07 2008 :  00:58:48  Show Profile  Email Poster  Visit 1029usr078198's Homepage  Click to see 1029usr078198's MSN Messenger address  Reply with Quote
Hello and welcome to Podcast #4 for July 25, 2006. I’m your host, David Anderson. As you may know, I watch a whole bunch of TV: probably more than I should. But one thing I’m seeing a lot is the use of the term “Broadband”. I see it used to describe both home Internet access and cellular data access. And so you may be left wondering, “Just what is broadband, anyway?” Well, the term “broadband” is a technical term, and therefore has a technical definition. It also has a definition when used in a marketing context. You’re not going to be too surprised if I tell you those definitions aren’t the same, are you? I hope not.

Let’s start with the technical definition because there actually is a common thread between the definitions. Broadband is the aggregation of two or more different kinds of signal multiplexed onto a single medium. For example, you could have video, voice, and data services each running across the same cable simultaneously. If you have Cable Internet Access, you have broadband because both data service and cable television service travel across the same wire. For that matter, just having all the TV channels coming into the TV is broadband… technically.

The marketing definition of the term broadband indicates that the top speed of the connection exceeds 53k bits per second (or 5.3k Bytes per second). Why 53k? Because that’s the speed limit of a 56k Modem; you see, for some strange reason, the FCC has limited telephone modem speeds to no more than 53k, even though the modem is technically capable of an extra 3kbps. So, anything from 128k bits per second (12.8k Bytes per second) and up is considered broadband.

Now, back to that common thread between the definitions… Computer networks like the Internet can carry different kinds of information because that information has been digitized. My voice, for instance has been changed from vibrating air into a sequence of numbers that can duplicate that vibration in your speakers. If you’re listening to the streaming version of this podcast, then that sequence of numbers is sharing your connection with your web browser, email, or whatever else you’re doing on the Internet right now. That is where the two definitions converge: the ability to carry more than one type of information over the same medium simultaneously.

But not all broadband is created equal. As a consumer, please be aware of the limitations of the medium when evaluating services. Because all computer data is represented as numbers in the computer whether video, audio, or word processing documents, the speed your computer can receive those numbers will limit how effective that particular kind of connection is at carrying more than one type of information. Video requires far more numbers to describe the picture than this podcast needs to describe the sound, for instance. So more available speed is required to get an acceptable picture than is required to get acceptable sound. Since the top speed is a fixed amount that must be shared, lower speeds mean fewer things can be done at the same time without degrading the quality of what you’re doing. So if you’re watching videos on StupidVideos.com and you try to download a podcast, that download will typically cause the video to stutter, jump, or skip frames because the download takes up some of the speed the video needed to remain smooth. So when you see commercials touting the benefits of broadband through the cellular network, be aware that while it is now considerably more capable than before, it’s not going to be nearly as fast as cable or DSL.

If you have questions or comments about this or any podcast, don’t hesitate to email us at feedback@daconsult.com. I’m David Anderson, Thanks for listening.
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