Broadband content is encoded digitally. A series of zeros and ones transmitted over telephone lines, power lines or via radio frequencies or satellite represent video, audio and data. A modem typically acts as a translator to convert the content from digital into analog or whatever other form is necessary and vice versa. This enables you to watch digital television, surf the web at high speeds or make unlimited VoIP phone calls.
Whenever you submit a request to watch a television channel or surf the web with satellite broadband, digitally encoded data travels about 22,000 miles into the sky. Satellite service subscribers must install a satellite dish at the premises to receive and send out signals to the orbiting satellite and have a clear view of the southern sky. Satellite broadband technology allows customers in rural areas to access television and Internet services where DSL or cable broadband may not be available. The major satellite providers in the United States have download speeds that cap out at around 2 Mbps. This technology suffers from latency because of the distance data must travel.
Cable operators in the U.S. generally provide broadband cable, Internet and home phone service to subscribers. Broadband data for all three services is encoded digitally and transmitted through cable TV wires to the premises. In some areas, cable Internet subscribers may be able to access speeds in excess of 100 Mbps. Apart from access to high-definition programming, interactive services allow cable TV subscribers to pause, rewind and forward shows, respond to surveys and even pay their cable bills using their television remotes. Features will vary by provider but the digital nature of the content allows this functionality.
DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line and is a broadband technology that employs the use of an existing two-wire copper telephone line to provide high-speed, broadband Internet access to subscribers. You can surf the web and talk on the phone at the same time, a function that is not possible using a dial-up Internet connection. Service addresses that are closer to the provider’s central office will have access to faster speeds than those that are further away. In some cases, speeds in excess of 30 Mbps are possible with DSL. A new technology called “naked DSL” is being rolled out in some areas, allowing subscribers to obtain DSL service without having to subscribe to the provider’s home phone service as well.
VoIP subscribers can access many features that are not available on traditional landline phones. The digital technology allows for voicemails to be saved as electronic audio files that can be accessed from a web-based interface. Call forwarding, call rejection, number portability, caller ID and 3-way calling are just some of the additional features that VoIP’s digital broadband technology allows. Unlimited, nationwide long distance calling and low international rates are considered by many to be the defining contributions of this digital broadband technology.