Broadband – Wireless- 3G & 4G – Wifi – Bluetooth – Whats all this then

communication-1015376_640To explain the various connection options for broadband home network and their strengths and weaknesses. To show you the benefits of using (or setting up) your own Broadband network at home to get the most from your devices. And to show how a home WiFi network is easily managed.

Overview

Most Broadband internet connections (Wikipedia article here) now are Wireless or ADSL (copper phone network), with Cable rapidly replacing both where available because of reliability, speed and capacity.

Wireless or Cellular connections are really extensions of the Mobile Phone networks that have grown rapidly over the last 20 years. Speeds are very good, depending on the provider, and on the number of users trying to use the network in a particular cell area. Prices are moderating, but usually are higher than ADSL or cable. It is hugely better if you need it for travel. The latest version (4G up from 3G(eneration)) is better though less widely spread.

ADSL is also getting better all the time. But improvements (needed because of higher demand, more people, more data) are harder now as copper networks are not being maintained, and recent copper installations were sub standard compared to earlier technology. Reasonably reliable, it is usually cheaper than Wireless, and is usually considerably faster.

Cable where available is faster, more reliable, and usually priced similar to ADSL.

Powerline network is becoming increasingly reliable. This approach uses your homes electrical outlets as a network conduit. It works well, but depends on the proximity of the power points used.

If you have a choice then its Cable, ADSL then Wireless (Cellular) in order of preference for a home connection.

WiFi (hotspot, your own home network)

With any of these three options, you can use a home based WiFi router (most often incorporated in the Broadband modem) to spread your internet connection between your many devices. WiFi is also known as a wireless home network or Wireless Hotspot (in internet cafe’s etc). Modern WiFi is fast enough to stream movies (several at once) around your home, and still surf the net at the same time, and can connect 50 or more devices. This used to need a cabled home network, which is still faster, though more costly and now less flexible.

So if you have Cable Broadband, and a fast WiFi (and your service provider doesn’t suck :), you have the ideal setup.

How to set up a wireless internet connection

ADSL, Cable and Cellular (Wireless) Connections

ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. Here is the definition in Wikipedia.

There are many versions of ADSL, and it keeps getting better / faster. ADSL has some significant limitations depending on the telephone exchange capabilities, distance from the exchange, and quality of the copper lines on which it runs. ADSL works reasonably well, usable for live HD video and movies (in most cases) and broadly available.

Cable is faster. The later versions can carry much more information than ADSL. It uses light on optical fibres to transfer information.

Cellular (or Wireless) connections are improving all the time. They are generally slower than Cable, and often slower than ADSL connections. But they have the advantage of portability, and sometimes are all thats available. THey are usually more expensive. Video streaming is possible on the better services.

Satellite Broadband is usually the most expensive, not the fastest, and an excellent choice when you don’t have any other choice at all.

Bluetooth is a short range wireless technology used in close proximity areas (such as your car) to connect devices that will stay close to each other while operating.

Shop Around

It pays to shop around (when you can) and search the internet to find the best provider and deal on broadband. In Australia, the Whirlpool Forums have a huge amount of useful information about the changing service providers and plans. Like any forum, you will see a lot of problem posts, but it is usually the people having problems that are motivated to post. So listen to the posters, but assess consistency of problems mentioned by various posters before forming your own opinion.