Descriptions and user guide to broadband

Routers and broadband modems are necessary to get your computer and broadband working together. A broadband modem is the box that receives the broadband signal in your home and a router distributes the signal to the computer in your home.

It is important to have the right broadband modem and/or router.

What is a broadband modem?

A broadband modem is a device, which allows your computer to connect to the service running through your phone line or cable connection. Without a modem you will not be able to use the Internet. Most broadband service providers include a broadband modem for free in their initial set-up package, while others will sell you one at an extra cost.

ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line)

To use an ADSL broadband service you need to plug your phone line into an ADSL modem, and then connect a computer to it.

ADSL uses an ordinary phone line to allow use of the normal phone service and internet at the same time. It is currently the most widely used form of broadband internet in Australia.

The pros of ADSL are that it is cheap, fast, reliable, with many different packages offered by service providers. ADSL goes to 8 mbps (which is megabits per second) this is the speed that the data is sent or received using a broadband internet connection. The downside of using ADSL is that it is only available up to 7 km from a telephone exchange.

ADSL 2 is the same as ADSL only it goes to 12 mbps (megabits per second). ADSL 2+ goes to 24 mbps.

Cable broadband

Cable broadband is cheap. Reliable and may be faster than ADSL. The downside of cable broadband is that it is only available to a limited number of homes, and often uses the same fibre-optic cable used by cable television providers. Cable internet services usually operate separately to the standard telephone service. It has low latency (this is the delay caused by the time it takes data to travel from devices communicating with each other.) egg. two computers playing a game. If you want to use your broadband for online gaming you will need a package with low latency. There is less choice of packages.

Wireless (e.g. unwired) allow wireless-enabled devices to share your broadband connection - but with no need for cables and wires between your modem and your computer. You can connect laptops, and games to your broadband connection from anywhere round your home or even from your garden. The speed of broadband wireless can vary widely and may 'burst' to speeds higher than 10 mbps for a while, but is usually slower and is expensive. It is good for people on the move.

What is WiFi?

WiFi is wireless technology that allows you to access your broadband connection anywhere in your home. It is not the same as wireless internet. Any WiFi enabled computer used with a wireless router for your broadband can connect to the internet 'wirelessly' without the need to plug in a cable.

What does usage cap mean?

This is the maximum amount of data that you are allowed to transfer every month without incurring additional broadband changes.

How is usage calculated?

If the plan you are considering includes free sites, you should make sure that you know which they are likely to change. You should also clarify whether your plan limit includes both upload and download, or download only.

The consequences of going over your cap will vary depending on your provider. You need to familiarize yourself with the costs, and be aware that due to the high speeds associated with broadband internet, it is very easy to exceed your plan limit. Many ISP's (Internet service provider) will give you a warning when you are nearing or have exceeded your plan limit.

Hardware for home networking

This will depend on the type of service you intend to use:

  • ADSL broadband - an ADSL modem or modem/router.
  • Cable broadband - a cable modem usually supplied by the cable company.
  • Wireless broadband - a roof mounted transceiver (these usually have a modem built in)

What should you consider when choosing a modem or router?

The main thing to consider when buying a modem or router to connect to the internet is that it's compatible with your computer and does what you want it to do. If you want to be able to go online without having to plug in your computer, or use your internet connection anywhere in your home, you will need a wireless router.

The easiest way to get a broadband modem or router is directly from your broadband provider - they may well provide you with the right one for free when you sign-up. If you are searching for a new broadband deal look for one that includes a broadband modem or wireless router for free - that way you know you have the right hardware and it won't cost anything extra.

Security aspects of broadband

In order to protect your computer and internet service you need to have a password. You need to treat your internet password in the same way that you treat your pin to your bank account. Do not save your password on your computer or write it down. It is also a good idea to alter your password regularly.

If there are young children in the home then the computer needs to be positioned in the house where it is visible to see what sites the children are looking at. There are also ways of blocking sites to prevent children from accessing them. You will need to speak to your service provider regarding this matter.

In order to protect your computer and internet service you need to ensure that you have the latest version of virus protection software, and that you will update it regularly. You should also operate a firewall and ensure that you install patches and updates to your operating system on a regular basis.

Users need to be wary of emails received from unknown sources, deleting these as soon as they are received and never open attachments from dubious sources.

Published on April 4-th, 2009 in Broadband
Damon Rasheed is the CEO of Rate Detective, an Australian financial service comparison sites specialising in Life Insurance, Income Protection Insurance and home loans. Damon holds a Master's Degree in Economics from the University of Melbourne and has been involved in many start-up internet businesses.

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