Soon, 200kbps Might No Longer Be Considered Broadband

from the 14.4k-seems-like-broadband-when-you're-used-to-2.4 dept

While we wait for the details of President-Elect Obama's "broadband stimulus" package to emerge, one aspect of such a plan hasn't gotten a lot of attention: just exactly what the government will consider to be a broadband connection. For a long time, the FCC considered anything that delivered over 200kbps downstream to be broadband, though last year, it raised the minimum cutoff to 768kbps. It's not a coincidence that's the minimum speed offered by many cable modem or DSL providers, making it seem as if the government standards were shoehorned to fit the market, rather than designed to encourage any growth or higher levels of service. So a key part of any broadband plan will be where the administration sets the bar for what's considered broadband, and what will be eligible for the government benefits. For what it's worth, Qwest has said broadband should be considered to be a minimum of 7Mbps, corresponding to service it's currently rolling out. It doesn't seem likely that the government would make the leap from 768kbps to 7Mbps in one fell swoop, but only by setting the minimum at a reasonable level -- and holding incumbent telcos to their commitments -- will broadband policy stand a chance of being effective.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    mano, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 4:35am

    Kbps or KBps?

    You sure you got the 'b' right in Kbps? 200 Kbps is 25KBps - the speed you can get in dial up connections!

     

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  2.  
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    Hyrulio, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:21am

    Re: Kbps or KBps?

    While incredibly pedantic, he's got a point.

     

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  3.  
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    Ian Kenefick, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:22am

    Re: Kbps or KBps?

    Eh, 25Kbps isn't possible on 56k. The b in 56kbps is also just a bit ie. 1/8 of a byte. So the max would be a lowly 7kbps - and let's be honest. No one ever gets 7kbps on dialup. It's more like 3-5kbps on dialup.

     

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  4.  
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    Ian Kenefick, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:25am

    Re: Kbps or KBps?

    Ooops typo with the B's.

    Eh, 25KBps isn't possible on 56k. The b in 56kbps is also just a bit ie. 1/8 of a byte. So the max would be a lowly 7kBps - and let's be honest, no one ever gets 7kBps on dialup. It's more like 3-5kBps on dialup.

    (can an admin delete my previous post?)

     

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  5.  
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    Matthew Roop (profile), Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:34am

    a little cold water

    While this all sounds good and noble, isn't there another issue? Why should the government be involved in decided what is and isn't broadband to begin with? The ultimate decider should be the consumer. Qwest thinks that 7Mbps is broadband that's great. Some cheap service out there thinks that 200kbps is broadband, don't use them.
    But why in the world do we want the government to step in again and mess things up? Is it on the basis of their marvelous track record? Ha! Is it on the basis of their Constitutional authority to tell private companies what they can and cannot do? I don't think so.

    In this case, the government came in and officially declared broadband to be what everybody already agreed that it should be. That doesn't hurt companies or consumers. But to do that to try and push companies along before they are ready will only lead to very high costs, as companies struggle to comply with a currently unreasonable standard. This leads to higher prices for the consumer. In the meantime, Qwest gets virtual monopoly status thanks to government intervention.

     

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  6.  
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    Nick, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:49am

    First off, quit arguing about letters. Network speed is always measured in bits per second. The first letter is the multiplier - kilo, mega, or giga, and keep in mind that it's powers of 10 not powers of 2. That's just how network speed is measured. Bits per second, powers of ten.

    As far as what is defined as "Broadband", I can't see defining something higher than 1.5Mbps as "Broadband", because then a T1 wouldn't qualify. That seems like it would be pretty sad, that a T1 wouldn't qualify as "Broadband" access.

    We need to be realistic, while super high speeds are available in the cities setting a rediculiously high bar of what is broadband only hurts us by making it impossible to deploy those services into rural and suburban environments.

    If "Broadband" is 5mbps, how on earth are you going to get that out to a rural subscriber who wants "Broadband" service thirty miles from town?

     

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  7.  
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    Monarch, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:52am

    Re: a little cold water

    For a telco like Qwest to offer 7kbps, they would need to have fiber in the area. I'm sure that Qwest is not running fiber to every customer who currently is purchasing DSL. So in essence it raises the bar. Comcast and Qwest would need to offer a minimum of 7kbps in an area for clear broadband competition. If not, then whoever lives in an area getting basic 1.5kbps DSL or 3kbps cable are on just that, basic connections, and subpar broadband.

    The idea of raising it to a higher level, raises the bar for all companies, not just Qwest, to provide broadband connections on par with those in Asia. It would raise the bar to allow the upcoming web starts that are streaming media to have a realistic audience. Problem is, with that much bandwidth open, transfer rates will also increase, meaning the providers will need to raise the minimum bandwidth cap in the future, like Comcast's 250GB.

     

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  8.  
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    Sam Nicholson, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:57am

    warming the water

    While I generally agree that the government should not place itself "in loco consumer" and mess around with the market, in this case, it is acting as the representative of the consumers in ongoing negotiations over the terms of service of what has, in practice, become a utility.

    I think it's pretty important that we don't let telcos get away with touting what they are delivering in very localized markets as their "standard" when what most folks get is a "watered" down version or even an older technology altogether.

    I'm not at all opposed to telcos' offering enhanced services wherever the market can bear the prices, but we are for all practical purposes back to monopoly status in many markets. And those markets need an imposed standard.

    FWIW, I doubt that many folks need much more than a few hundred kbps of upstream service. On average, who actually has that much to say? And anything more than 1-2 Mbps of downstream service is just an alternative to broadcasting.

    So, I'm down with Matthew's effective position, standardizing the status quo. We might differ when I advocate periodically nudging it upward a bit to keep some small positive pressure on.

     

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  9.  
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    Gunnar, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:22am

    Re: a little cold water

    "But why in the world do we want the government to step in again and mess things up? Is it on the basis of their marvelous track record?"

    And the private companies have done such a great job so far?

     

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  10.  
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    hegemon13, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:25am

    Re: Kbps or KBps?

    Nope. Actually, a modem is 56Kbps. Most software that shows you your download speed measures in KBps rather than Kbps. In those case, a 7 Mb connection shows as downloading at aroung 800 KBps or so, not 8000.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:26am

    Broadband, did that used to mean something?

    What ever happened to Broadband being the concept opposite Baseband? That is Broadband provides a fluctating bandwidth "pool" that is shared by users while Baseband provides fixed bandwidth to each single end user? Somewhere down the line "Broadband" appeared to have become a marketing term and as such seems to have suffored the same fate as all marketing terms, it has been reduced to meaninglessness.

     

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  12.  
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    hegemon13, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    Re:

    Powers of ten? Actually, when you go from KB to Kb, you divide by 8, not 10.

     

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  13.  
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    hegemon13, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:30am

    7MB is extreme

    I think 7MB is a bit extreme. I would say that around 1.5-2.0 MB should easily qualify as broadband. That covers the vast majority of everything a person does online, and it certainly covers any educational "needs." Except for 1080p HD, those speeds would even cover streaming video, and 1080p HD over the internet should not be a government-guaranteed luxury. I went with a 1Mb connection for six months or so until TW dropped the price of the 7Mb plan, and I only noticed a difference when I was downloading a file.

     

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  14.  
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    Ryan, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:33am

    Gov. Regs.

    Much like the EPA standards on vehicles and the required gas mileage. Set it at a challenge level, it will get done.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: a little cold water

    "For a telco like Qwest to offer 7kbps, they would need to have fiber in the area"

    Why Cincinnati Bell offers a 768/384kbps and a 5mbps/768kbps connection on dsl and Insight offers a 10mbps and a 20mbps connection.

     

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  16.  
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    Overcast, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:10am

    Why Cincinnati Bell offers a 768/384kbps and a 5mbps/768kbps connection on dsl and Insight offers a 10mbps and a 20mbps connection

    Hey, you live in my Area.. Insight definitely rocks :) I only have 10mb, but the 20 has tempted me on a few occasions.

    But I can't see the government wasting money on this, there are more corporate bailouts to do!! But really, shouldn't they be concentrating on using resources for more important needs, like feeding hungry people or something?

     

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  17.  
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    Not gonna happen....., Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:23am

    You expect the toothless stooges at the FCC?

    a to actually "hold incumbent telcos to their commitments"? that's wishful thinking to the extreme

     

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  18.  
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    woody7, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:27am

    If you take all the subsidies, tax credits, etc. that the telcos have recieved why are we still a 3rd world country as far as broadband is concerned? If we had "broadband" in the more rural areas of the country, we could move the offshore "help desk" back to on shore, and at a fair price to the business, and the worker. JMT

     

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  19.  
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    Nick, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    Re: Re:

    You use powers of ten when dealing with transfer speeds unlike when you deal with disk space.

    Now go read a LAN/WAN manual.

     

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  20.  
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    Kron, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:43am

    Broadband

    I live in the boundary zone of a MSA and a RSA and cannot get any type of "broadband" services. Time Warner is the provider in the area (as all cable companies have no competes for specific areas, but that's another topic for discussion) and wants to charge me $6,000,000 to install a junction box on their cable run and spool out 2.5 miles of cable to me. Naturally something like this isn't that expensive and should only cost $15,000 maximum.

    The tragedy behind it is my township has tried using every FCC regulation and every law available to force them to provide service to our area, all to no avail. I'd rather see issues like this get resolved first before defining what broadband actually is.

    Sadly AT&T doesn't have the infrastructure and the only alternative is to go through a cell phone carrier's data service. Needless to say I'm lucky if I can get 200kbps for any reasonable length of time. Add to that my provider's DNS servers return a server failure and they don't properly cache the IP leases in their DHCP server, and you have a glimpse into a high-speed dead zone I call home.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Charles, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:44am

    "Much like the EPA standards on vehicles and the required gas mileage. Set it at a challenge level, it will get done."

    This is what i was thinking too. Setting a progressive minimum will help push things along. Especially if funding was tided into meeting the requirements.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:49am

    Shoehorned to meet the existing market

    If the US government definition is refined to once again meet the existing capabilities of the market, should we expect the language to state that broadband speeds are UP TO xxx kbps?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Nick, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    >You use powers of ten when dealing with transfer speeds >unlike when you deal with disk space.

    >Now go read a LAN/WAN manual.

    What an inane comment. This discussion doesn't have anything to do with disk space. It has to do with the performance of network connections.

    For your refrence, I've ready plenty of documents regarding networking. I run an ISP.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Nick, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    Re: Re:

    Yes, if you are converting from bits to bytes you have to adjust as such.

    However, when dealing with network speeds it's all in bits. You buy a 1.5 megabit per second T1. You buy 6 megabit per second DSL. A dialup modem is 56 kilobits per second. Your fancy new motherboard has a 1 gigabit per second interface.

    It's all measured in bits.

    Prefixes are in powers of ten. Kilo is 1000, Mega is 1000000, and Giga is 1000000000.

    What confuses you is that your browser or ftp or whatever shows you the throughput in BYTES per second.

    You don't buy your connection in bytes per second. You don't shop for network hardware based on specifications in bytes per second. Go read some documentation for a few routers or switches. It won't say "bytes per second" anywhere in there.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    Speed criteria is download only?

    I'd settle for having that qualifying bandwidth apply to UPLOADs as well as DOWNLOADs.

    It seems like the legislators still don't get that internet communication is two way.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 8:10am

    Overhead

    "Eh, 25Kbps isn't possible on 56k. The b in 56kbps is also just a bit ie. 1/8 of a byte. So the max would be a lowly 7kbps - and let's be honest. No one ever gets 7kbps on dialup. It's more like 3-5kbps on dialup."

    remember, a 100mpbs ethernet isn't going to do 12.5MB/s of usuable data, but it will do 12.5MB/s of RAW data. There is a LOT of overhead in packets

     

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  27.  
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    madbavarian, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 8:47am

    broadband used to be 10Mbits/sec up and down

    When @home rolled out broadband service it was understood to be 10Mbits/sec up and down. The intention was to be as close to an ethernet connection over the cable-tv system as possible. Over the years, it started getting watered down, especially when the phone companies entered the field and started offering their anaemic DSL service with a slow downlink and even slower uplink.

    I guess most people must not ever try to "upload" large files to their work computer or post large pictures to sites like flickr. If they did, we'd hear a lot more noise about 128k to 768k uplinks *not* being broadband.

     

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  28.  
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    chris (profile), Jan 16th, 2009 @ 8:53am

    Re: 7MB is extreme

    I think 7MB is a bit extreme. I would say that around 1.5-2.0 MB should easily qualify as broadband. That covers the vast majority of everything a person does online, and it certainly covers any educational "needs."

    it says 7mbps in the brochure, but i guarantee you that you will never see 7mbps. i guarantee you that you will never see 3.5mbps

    my cable company (insight communications, northern kentucky) says i connect at 10mbps and while downloads are fast, i barely get 8mbps on a speed test with cincinnati or chicago.

    what i think the minimum should specify is not the advertised speed, but the actual service. I.E. if you provide broadband service, and your customers don't see the minimum (768down, etc.) you get shut down by the FCC.

    the standard for the speed test can be open and published, and the FCC can conduct "speed audits" at residences and businesses to keep providers honest.

     

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  29.  
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    uncle bob, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 9:04am

    a modest guideline

    Here's a rough guideline: your BB connection should be able to handle two NTSC-quality video streams along with two browsers going at the the web without the video stream stuttering. I'd guess this to be around 2mbit.

     

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  30.  
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    chris (profile), Jan 16th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Re:

    Hey, you live in my Area.. Insight definitely rocks :) I only have 10mb, but the 20 has tempted me on a few occasions.

    the problem with insight is uplink speed. you only get somewhere between 200k and 600k up. i would gladly trade half my download speed to double my uplink (5mbps down and 2mbs up).

     

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  31.  
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    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: a little cold water

    Would you be thinking Fanny and Freddy, who the government pushed into ruin and are government entities... or maybe the Broker Companies that due to law had to rely on government ratings of mortage portfolio's that the Government mis represented to get people to actually buy the crap mortgage's.... Or the Automotives that have more laws leveled on how they must build, who they must hire, and what they can export that has driven them into the ground... so before you turn away from YOUR government and think its the private side of things, know your facts...

     

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  32.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Now go read a LAN/WAN manual"

    Go read your won LAN/WAN manual and you will see that it isn't times 2, 8, 10, or 1000. It's more along the lines of 2 to the power of 10 or 1024. Hence, 1Kb is actually 1024b. Remember computers run in powers of 2.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Who cares what broadband is. They could say the minimum is a 200Mb line. If the websites and file servers you're going to can't provide that kind of upload bandwidth to you, your line is as fast as theirs.

    Every once in a while I find a server that I can download from that will saturate my cable line and give me around 15Mbit download speeds. But that's not too often.

     

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  34.  
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    nasch, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: 7MB is extreme

    Yeah, that would be wonderful to lose my internet access because my ISP isn't giving me my full download speed. Because no access at all is much better than access that isn't quite as fast as I expected.

     

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  35.  
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    uncle bob, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 12:53pm

    Re:

    > If the websites and file servers you're going to can't provide that kind of upload bandwidth to you, your line is as fast as theirs.

    Of course that assumes you are always doing only one thing at a time with your BB connection. Many of us have more than one family member using the internet at any given time- browsing, Hulu, Bittorrent, VOIP, gaming... so a lot of bandwidth to our house is very helpful

    Sure... one individual site may not be able to pump out data fast enough to saturate our BB line, but multiple sites simultaneously *will*.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    uncle bob, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    Re:

    > If the websites and file servers you're going to can't provide that kind of upload bandwidth to you, your line is as fast as theirs.

    Of course that assumes you are always doing only one thing at a time with your BB connection. Many of us have more than one family member using the internet at any given time- browsing, Hulu, Bittorrent, VOIP, gaming... so a lot of bandwidth to our house is very helpful

    Sure... one individual site may not be able to pump out data fast enough to saturate our BB line, but multiple sites simultaneously *will*.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    fred, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Soon, 200kbps Might No Longer Be Considered Broadband

    The definition of broadband should be: two gigabits in both directions without limits, caps, and other foolish restrictions.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    rcw, Jan 19th, 2009 @ 7:15pm

    Re: Broadband, did that used to mean something?

    What ever happened to Broadband being the concept opposite Baseband? That is Broadband provides a fluctating bandwidth "pool" that is shared by users while Baseband provides fixed bandwidth to each single end user?

    Huh? The classical definitions are based off of the frequency range that the signal uses, not how much data can squeeze through it, and certainly not how it's allocated per user.

    A baseband signal is (still is!) any signal whose frequency range starts at 0 Hz. Examples of baseband signalling include ethernet (10baseT: 0-20MHz; 100baseT: 0-200MHz; 1000baseT: 0-250MHz) and some CCTV (0-6MHz).

    Now, for example, coaxial cable can pass frequencies much higher than 6MHz, and in many cases it's useful to put multiple signals on the same wire. These can be shifted/stacked/etc - a signal at 0-6MHz on one wire can be sent as a signal from 6-12MHz or 12-18MHz on a different wire along with other signals without signal degradation.

    Likewise, someone really only needs to hear the 300-3000Hz range of your voice to understand you. Before the age of digital Time Domain Multiplexing (TDM), telephone companies would put multiple voice calls on a single trunk line by shifting their frequency range.

    The only difference between those last two examples is the size of the frequency range used. It was common practice to call a signal that used a similar frequency spread as the human voice "narrow" and a signal that used more than that as "broad" (for example, FM Radio uses 200kHz/channel).

    More information can be sent across a channel with a wider frequency range than a narrow one, although the usable capacity depends just as much on the signal to noise ratio (for example, GPS squeezes a small trickle of information through a very broadband channel with more noise than signal).

    Marketing people have tended to forget about that caveat in their current redefinition of "broadband"/"narrowband" to refer to bitrate. It's already pretty meaningless. Bitrate is a number - the meaning we ascribe to that number will change from one year to the next, so it makes sense not to hide those numbers or evaluate a nation's connectivity in relation to a single threshold.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    krrish, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    r we gettin xploited

    wat i mean to say.........wen evr we buy a bb conn thery say lets assume that 2mbps download speed but m gettin nly around 100 to 150 kbps..........by this type of wrong statements r we the consumers gettin xploited?....i think so..........plz post ur views on this....let me analyse ur opinions......tank yo

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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