You probably have the idea of what the terms is and you probably use it every day but what is broadband?
Are you able to define the term broadband?
Don’t feel badly if you can’t, even though it is a common term everybody uses, even information technology experts all have a hard time agreed on what exactly it means.
You probably have seen or heard the word broadband or its equivalents in many contexts.
Your local internet service providers are advertising broadband or high speed internet access.
Other companies advertise speed like 4G. There are also many government organizations dedicated to promoting broadband.
So Now What Is Broadband
In simple terms, broadband means “fast” as in fast internet access.
There is no universal definition that everybody agrees on, including engineers and government regulators.
But generally, everybody agrees that broadband means fast.
For example, fast enough to stream videos, to stream music and to download large files quickly.
However, let’s look at some of the formal definitions of broadband and the technology behind it.
The United States FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has a number to define broadband, tha number is 25MBPS Downlink.
There is another number associated with that: that number is 6MBPS Uplink.
Do those numbers mean anything to you? Unless you are a technical person and even then, you probably don’t.
These are the speeds the U.S government says it is qualified to be called broadband.
But you broadband internet provider at home probably don’t provide those speeds today.
More on that later.
So what is broadband?
Different Broadband Technologies
Let us compare a few different broadband technologies, what they are and how they can help us figure out what broadband is.
To compare different technologies, you need to understand how speed is measured.
For that, the term bandwidth is used.
To measure bandwidth, we use a unit called Bits Per Second (BPS). Measuring BPS is kind of measuring the amount of water flowing through a river.
Just like a large river flowing very fast means you have a lot of water. Having a large broadband pipe with lots of bits flowing at the speed of light means you have a lot of data.
But now you are wondering what is a bit?
What is a bit?
Well, you probably know that all digital information is a sequence of 1s and 0s. everything, the videos you watch on YouTube, the music you download to your phones, the websites you visit, all data is stored as a sequence of 0s and 1s.
These 1s and 0s are called bits.
For example, ten 1s and 0s is called 10b bits. So, what if I said you could send 10 of those bits in one seconds.
How would you describe that? If that is right, you would say “10 bits per seconds”. What you just described right now is what is called bandwidth.
What Is Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is actually how many 1s and 0s or bits someone can send in 1 second. So, 10 bits per seconds means we can send ten 1s and 0s per second.
1000 bits per seconds means we can send one thousand 1s and 0s per second.
Let’s review few different access technologies to help us figure out the term broadband.
Different Access Technologies
Dial up internet is definitely not broadband by today’s definition but it is good to use as a baseline. From the mid-1990s, dial up internet speed has 56000 bps (56kbps).
That means a maximum of 56 1s and 0s are transmitted every second. That is not very fast by today’s standard but at one point, it was pretty cutting edge.
You won’t be able to stream movies over 56kbps.
Let’s see some the technologies that would actually count as broadband.
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)
DSL internet provided by your telephone company gives up to about 7 million bits per seconds (7 MBPS). That means seven million 1s and 0s are transmitted every second.
Cable internet is about the same speed as DSL but these days, DSL has become faster than it used to be. Neither DSL or Cable network are new technologies.
Both has been around since the 1990s however, both technologies are always improving and they ae both definitely much faster than they used to be.
Most people will call both technologies broadband by today’s standard because they are fast enough to download large files and stream internet media.
Fiber internet which is just recently introduced some years back, is very fast. One billion bits per second. Or 1 Giga Bit Per Second. That is one billion 1s and 0s transmitted every second.
Now I don’t know what you think is broadband but I say that is definitely broadband.
After looking at all of these numbers, I think that it is easier to say what we said in the beginning, that broadband means fast.
And that means faster than what I had yesterday. That means the bench mark is always going to move. You will always demand something better because you will always demand something faster than what you had yesterday.
You now have a better understanding of what the term broadband means. And remember, what you think is broadband today is probably not going to be broadband tomorrow because tomorrow you will still define broadband as faster than what I had yesterday.