We can connect to the Internet using many different technologies. In this video, you’ll learn about satellite networking, fiber, cable broadband, DSL, and more.
There’s more than one way to connect to the internet. In this video, we’ll look at the different internet connection types. One increasingly common form of internet connectivity is through satellite networking. This is where you would use a satellite dish to communicate with a satellite that’s in a low Earth orbit. We sometimes refer to this as a non-terrestrial communication method because we’re communicating to a device that’s in space.
As you can imagine, having a rocket take your satellite connection into space is a relatively expensive task. And so the costs of having satellite connectivity can be more expensive than something that might be terrestrial networking. The speeds over these satellite links can vary widely, but it’s not uncommon to find 50 megabits of speed down and three megabits of speed going up to the satellite.
As you can imagine, this is a bit more complicated than simply connecting a cable in your home, which means that you would probably be using a satellite connection where no other type of Internet connectivity was available. One of the challenge when communicating to these satellites in space is that it can take a bit of time to get the packets to space and back down to the ground station again. This means that you might have to deal with latency that might be 250 milliseconds going up to the satellite and another 250 milliseconds coming down from the satellite.
There are some newer satellite technologies such as Starlink which advertises 40 millisecond latency times, and they’re working on getting that down to 20 milliseconds. These satellite connections tend to operate in higher frequencies such as the two gigahertz range, and they operate over line of sight, which means if you do have rain clouds that come in, you’ll have rain fade which means you’ll lose your connection while that rain is between you and the satellite.
One of the higher speed terrestrial types of internet connection is fiber. These fiber optic links are great for internet connections because you can send a very large amount of information in a very short period of time. Of course, fiber optics tends to be more expensive because the equipment costs a bit more for fiber optics. You would have more expensive repairs for the fiber optics themselves and the equipment. But it does allow you to communicate over very long distances.
If you’ve worked at all with enterprise networks, then you’re very familiar with fiber optics and connecting your infrastructure devices and the cores of your network together using this fiber optic technology. We’ve taken that concept of running fiber optics in a network core and extended it to running fiber optics to your home or to your business. This greatly improves bandwidth for your internet connections and gives you other options for sending or receiving information over these high speed links.
If your home or business is serviced by a cable company, then you might have the option for cable broadband. This brings an internet connection into your home or business using the same cable that you would use for cable television. Broadband describes a method of communication where you can send multiple streams of data across a single wire by communicating across multiple frequencies on that wire. This means on a single wire, we can transmit video, voice, and data simply by using different frequencies on that same medium. If your home or your business is serviced by a cable company, they may be able to provide you with cable broadband. This brings in video, voice, and data communication over the same wire that you would commonly use for your cable television.
The standard for sending this data over cable networks is called DOCSIS. That stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. This DOCSIS standard supports very high speeds, and it’s not unusual to find DOCSIS networks that are 1 gigabit or even higher in speed. This also means you don’t have to bring in additional cables or services into your home. You can simply use the same cable that you’ve always used except now you can use video, voice, and data over that same connection.
Another technology where we’re sharing some existing copper that we may already have in our home is DSL. DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. Although in most cases it is ADSL or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. DSL uses the existing telephone lines in your home to be able to provide you with high speed network connections. We call this connection asymmetric because the speed of the download is often faster than the speed of the upload.
It’s not uncommon on DSL networks to have a downstream speed of around 200 megabits per second, but the upstream speed is limited to around 20 megabits per second. These speeds are also limited by how far away you are from the Central Office or CO. If your CO is an extended distance away, then those speeds tend to decrease. There is about a 10,000 foot limitation for DSL, so you have to be relatively close to your central office to even have DSL capabilities.
Many of us use cellular networks for internet connectivity, especially if we’re away from our office or our home. These use the mobile networks that you would commonly associate with a cell phone. But instead of sending voice over that network, we’re communicating sending data. One way to provide this connection is through tethering, where we would physically connect to our phone via USB or through Bluetooth and use our phone then as an internet connection. Many phones also support the ability to become a hotspot. So they would enable 802.11 capabilities and anything in range would be able to use that 802.11 network through your phone to access the internet.
And in some areas, you might have an ISP that is able to send information over a wireless network to your home. That would be a WISP or a Wireless Internet Service Provider. Unlike a satellite internet connection, we’re not sending information to space. Instead we’re sending information to local ground stations that are in our geographic area for that ISP. Usually you would find a WISP operating in rural areas or places where there’s not a large infrastructure already available to send internet traffic.
Some of these wireless ISPs will use meshed 802.11 to be able to connect devices. They might have a 5G connection for your home internet or they may be using some other type of proprietary wireless connection. In many cases, you’ll need an external or outdoor antenna to be able to send and receive information from this WISP. And usually you get very good performance from these wireless networks. In some areas, these networks can operate up to 1,000 megabits per second.