A broadband connection provides an equally reliable high-speed connection to every user in its coverage area…or at least, it should. Although Internet service providers commonly advertise speeds up to 25Mbps, Australians most often experience connection speeds at a fraction of that figure due to the limitations of technologies such as 4G and ADSL2.
4G is a broadband standard developed for use with mobile devices, and works with the older 3G standard to provide a widespread network of coverage. While 4G does theoretically provide the fastest connection speeds available with established broadband systems, it transitions into a low power state when inactive and can take just under a full second to reestablish a full speed connection, working to negate this advantage when directly compared at the user level.
Another drawback to the 4G standard is its incomplete coverage, which can force some users to drop to 3G coverage in low signal areas. This can make downloading large files, streaming video or even just browsing the Internet much more difficult, as the 3G standard was not designed to support these activities. 4G also connects all the users in a given area to a shared bandwidth source, and so the active speed of the connection can vary greatly based on its number of users.
ADSL2, or the Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line, uses a network of copper cables to connect a central data processing hub with a system of satellite hubs located in residential areas.
ADSL does provide an extremely stable signal and supports a large number of users simultaneously, but copper wire is a less than ideal material for data transmission as the signal fades over longer distances, making for slower connections the further a user is from the local hub.
Another central issue with copper wire is that it is inherently limited in the speeds it can provide, as it is not specifically engineered for the task.
The National Broadband Network is a government initiative designed to provide more reliable high speed access to a wider coverage area, and proposals call for the use of more advanced methods that deliver much higher speeds than currently possible with current broadband connections as the initiative continues to evolve.
One of these methods is known as Fibre-to-the-Node (FttN), which uses newly developed infrastructure and materials to provide a faster connection than possible with ADSL or 4G. Another development, known as FttP (Fibre-to-the-Premises), takes advantage of FttN connections to create a more direct conduit from the central data hub to the end user and enable exponentially faster Internet connection speeds.
While a better router, suitable network configuration, and computer suitable for processing modern data speeds go a long way to getting the most out of a 4G or ADSL connection, technological restrictions severely limit their ultimate potential. With the advanced connection types that are likely imminent with the rollout of the NBN, a combination of faster speeds and lower price may soon make it the clear choice of Australians nationwide. For expanded information about the NBN rollout, read more at iiNet.