Understanding Broadband Technologies DSL, Cable, Fiber, Cellular, and More

What is Broadband? Different Types of Broadband Technologies Explained

What Is Broadband?

Broadband has grown worldwide, promoted by policymakers, network operators, and content providers, but it does not have a single standardized definition worldwide, as described by Kelly (2012). Broadband can mean multiple aspects of the network and services. This may or may not include:

  • The infrastructure used to deliver broadband services.
  • High-speed access to the Internet.
  • Services and applications available via broadband networks.

As Kelly (2012) points out, many countries established broadband based on the speed of services and applications offered on the network. Due to each country’s unique needs and history, including economic, geographic, and regulatory factors, definitions of broadband vary widely.

Broadband is essential to the economy in the country it is rolled out as described by Kelly(2012). Broadband is transformative for the ICT business and other economic sectors. The author points out that the impact of broadband increases efficiency and productivity and the gross domestic product (GDP). Kelly (2012) indicates that low-income to middle-income countries experience a 1.38 percent increase in DGP for each 10 percent increase in broadband penetration.

The study pointed out that high-income countries enjoyed a 1.21 percentage increase for each 10 percent increase in broadband penetration. The author also cited that in 2010, the global penetration of mobile telephony was the fastest-growing ICT worldwide, with a rate of 76.2 for every 100 persons.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)

The digital subscriber lines (DSL) deliver Internet through existing telephone company copper cable. There are many variations of DSL.

One commonly used is ADSL or Assymeterix DSL, as described by Comer (2014),. This technology splits the frequency into three parts. One is for the telephone system or POTS, and two regions are to be used for data communications. It is important to remember that with ADSL, the phone and data division allow both to function simultaneously, affecting each other's signals.

Cable Modem

Cable television became popular in many countries. The cable coming into the house was engineered to deliver a data stream alongside the cable TV signal.

Cable systems use frequency division multiplexing (FDM) to deliver content. FDM allows both a data signal and a television signal to run simultaneously.

Fiber Home

Fiber to the home (FTTH) is rolling out in many countries. I was lucky enough to be able to install FTTH in my home in Auckland when living there. They cleverly pull fiber from the sidewalk to the house by using the old telephone cable as a snake to pull the fiber cable through. Once in the house, the optical network terminal (ONT) was installed on the garage wall. The ONT translates the digital fiber to an analog signal. There is a fiber connection, an RJ45 connection, and the back of the ONT where the link from the street was connected, and the Category 6 cable was attached to the switch for the switch to connect to the Internet. The router provided Internet and voice-over IP (VOIP) service. The service was stable, and the speed was fast.

At the time I was there, all the Internet was metered. So, one paid $75 monthly for eight gigabytes of bandwidth, and if one exceeded the limit, more could be purchased.

Broadband Cellular

Wireless broadband has become one of the most popular networks. In 1997, while working at Comcast Cellular Communications, they used 2G.

Soon after, the data speeds increased from 2G, and then 3G and 4G were released. Long-Term Evolution (LTE), also known as 4G LTE, is the current cellular network as described by Comer (2014). The introduction of the smartphone or what may be called the pocket computer and high-speed data networks running on Cellular networks have been the norm for Internet access since most users carry smartphones today. Today, most mobile or cellular carriers use third or fourth-generation cell phone technology, as described by Comer (2014). These networks are heavily marketed, and some cellular networks that are marketed don’t maintain their cellular network but use another network.

Cricket Wireless, for example, operates on the AT&T network. AT&T purchased Cricket Wireless and migrated the users off the Cricket Wireless network and onto the AT&T network.


Sprint Wireless recently shut down a WiMAX network they had purchased from Clearwire in 2013, as Goldstein (2015) points out. The author goes on to describe that all the customers were migrated off the WiMAX network onto the LTE wireless broadband Sprint network. Clearwire was one of the first major push to use mobile and fixed WiMAX technologies and was started by Craig McCaw. The WiMAX trend and technology, in this case, is overtaken by 4G LTE cellular wireless broadband technology.

Broadband Satellite

Satellite broadband, although available, is not commonly used in major cities but is intended for remote areas where Internet service is not available in other broadband methods. Working for a satellite company today, I know it is expensive to launch and maintain a satellite traveling worldwide. The Worldview 4 Satellite launched in October 2016 cost 500 million dollars to build alone. Satellites are expensive to launch and run.


Comer, D. E. (2014). Computer Networks and Internets, 6th Edition [VitalSource Bookshelf version]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/books/9781323074091

Goldstein, P. (2015). Sprint plans to shut down WiMAX network tomorrow, says only a small percentage remain on network. . Retrieved from http://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/updated-sprint-plans-to-shut-down-wimax-network-tomorrow-says-only-a-small-percentage

Kelly, T. R. C. M. (2012). Broadband Strategies Handbook. Washington: World Bank Publications. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=881429

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