The Fastest Internet Connection?
Everyone wants the fastest Internet connection they can get. Today, the giants in high-speed Internet are DSL (digital subscriber line) and cable modem service. But a newer technology called fiber optics blows them both out of the water, if you can get it. Here's how they stack up, speed-wise...
Which Internet Connection is Fastest?
DSL is the original "broadband" consumer Internet technology. It operates over the same copper wires that bring telephone service into your home. Those wires are connected to a "central office" facility. The maximum speed you can get on a DSL connection is highly dependent on how far your home is from the central office (CO). The theoretical maximum download speed of DSL is about 40 Mbps.
Cable modem technology runs over coaxial cable, the thicker, shielded wire that brings cable TV into your home. Coaxial cable may be connected to cable service provider facilities up to 100 miles from your home. The theoretical maximum speed of a cable Internet connection is 400 Mbps - ten times faster than DSL.
But you won't see anywhere near the maximums from either cable or DSL. Service providers throttle download speed to each home in order to serve more customers. Additionally, the number of users in your service area will affect how much cable bandwidth is available to each user. You may have noticed that your Internet connection is slowest in the late afternoon and early evening, when all of your neighbors are online.
Generally speaking, cable service providers deliver significantly faster download speed compared to DSL providers. Typical cable modem download speeds average around 10 Mbps, while DSL is likely to be in the 3 to 6 Mbps range. In most cases, you can pay a higher monthly subscription rate to get a faster connection.
By comparison, old-school dialup Internet connections max out at about 40-50 kbps, which makes even the slowest DSL connection seem like rocket speed. A 5Mbps cable internet connection is about 100 times faster than dialup service.
If you live in a rural area, you might not be able to get high-speed internet access via cable or telephone wires. That's where high-speed mobile broadband can save the day. If you have a strong 3G or 4G signal from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile in your area, you can purchase a USB modem or mobile hotspot device that converts the cellular signal into wifi. Similarly, some smartphones can create a hotspot that allows other devices to share the mobile Internet connection. Expect about 1Mbps on a 3G connection, and around 10Mbps with 4G. Of course, that all depends on the weather, the phase of the moon, and other things mere mortals cannot comprehend.
For completeness, I'll point you to my related article on Satellite Internet Service. Download speeds for satellite internet are even slower than DSL (ranging from 1-5 Mbps), they can be impacted by the weather, and you'll probably be annoyed by limits on monthly data usage. So consider this option as a last resort.
Fiber is Faster!
Fiber optic technology replaces copper wires with glass fibers, and uses light instead of electricity to carry Internet signals to the home. Fiber requires the build-out of an all-fiber network to every residence in a service area, whereas cable and DSL networks are already in place. Thus, fiber is only slowly spreading across the country. But when fiber reaches your home, it will make a big difference in your Internet experience. Because fiber is an end-to-end connection, your internet service isn't shared with all your neighbors, and won't bog down at peak usage time periods.
Verizon's FIOS is a fiber optic internet offering, available in a limited but rapidly expanding number of coverage areas. Download speeds range from 15 to 150 Mbps. I'm fortunate to live in an area where FIOS has been available for several years, and I can say my 50 Mbps connection is blazing fast, all day long. AT&T's U-Verse is a competing fiber optic product, but they max out at 24Mbps. See the coverage maps for Verizon FIOS and AT&T U-Verse.
Want to go even faster? Move to a location where gigabit (1000Mbps) Internet service is available. Google turned heads in September 2012 by announcing the availability of Google Fiber in Kansas City. They're planning to expand the service to Austin, TX and Provo, UT soon. See this list of cities for other places in the USA where gigabit service is available.
Check with the telephone company and cable operators in your area to see what they currently offer, and if they will be offering fiber optic service in the near future. In the long run, fiber optic will likely replace copper-based cable and DSL for residential and business Internet access. But bear in mind that the fastest Internet service might not be the best for you. If your Internet use is mainly for email with some casual web browsing, even low-end DSL or cable internet speeds will suit you just fine. But if you're into online gaming or video on demand, if you're a big downloader, or you maintain a website, paying more for speed can be a good thing.
What's the fastest internet service in your area? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 24 Sep 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- The Fastest Internet Connection? (Posted: 24 Sep 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved