So, What is Broadband Exactly?

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There is so much talk of all these broadband services. So, let’s take a step back from services and look at the bigger picture. What is broadband?

Broadband is basically a general term most commonly used to refer to high-capacity internet access. Many people think of broadband in terms of its ‘faster’ speed, however, the “speed” actually represents the quantity of data that can be transferred in a given time frame. This data is transferred through various types of broadband connections, such as coaxial cables, fibre-optics, and wireless. Telecommunication companies offer various plans and services for devices to access broadband.

It’s fair to note that ‘broadband’ is still defined as anything faster than the standard 56k voice-speed telephone line. Malaysian telecommunication companies continue to expand their broadband services.  Broadband’s other main distinction from dial-up is that the connection can be left on as it’s not metered, and you can use the phone at the same time.

Below we have outlined the primary types of broadband connections.

Digital Subscriber Line Broadband

DSL uses existing copper telephone lines to transfer data at an accelerated rate. The voice connection is handled by the lower, audible frequencies while higher frequencies transfer the data. A filter plugged into the subscriber’s telephone socket separates the two bands so internet and telephone can be used simultaneously.

Symmetrical DSL is required for business applications like video conferencing which need large volumes of data to travel in both directions, and faster versions are HDSL (high-rate) and VDSL (very high rate).

ADSL is usually used for home computer connections and is currently the most widely available mode of broadband connection in Malaysia. Its faster flow of information ‘downstream’ (i.e. downloading) is ideal for applications like watching movies online. ADSL downstream speeds range from 256 kilobytes to 20 megabits per second. Your distance from the provider’s facilities can affect its accessibility and speed.

So, you might be wondering what’s the difference between ADSL and SDSL?  Well, ADSL has a different upstream and downstream transfer rate (downstream is faster than upstream).  SDSL provides the same upstream and downstream transfer rate.  You’d prefer SDSL if you need comparable upstream and downstream rates, like for video conferencing.

Examples of ADSL and VDSL Broadband in Malaysia

TM is a good example of a company using ADSL / SDSL and VDSL broadband technology.  TM’s Streamyx uses ADSL and SDSL for its broadband service.  However, while UniFi connects a fibre-optic cable to the condominium, the final connection from the condominiums facility to the individuals apartments is made using VDSL.  If you live in a landed property in Malaysia, UniFi provides a broadband connection using Fibre to the Home. Ultimately, the technology difference results in UniFi having a faster broadband service than Streamyx.


Cable Modem Broadband

A cable modem is a device linking your computer to your cable television socket, and you can add broadband to your cable TV deal. The coaxial connection handles 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second) and is left on while the computer is in use. You can watch television at the same time. Factors affecting speed include modem type and the load on the network. This arrangement is more common than ADSL in the UK and US.

Fibre Optics Broadband

Fibre broadband represents a fasters broadband than the types discussed above because it uses fibre optic cables, which allows much faster data transfer.   Fibre optic technology converts electrical signals carry data into light, which are transferred via hair-thin glass cables. Fibre also supports simultaneous internet, voice and television connections.

Fibre-optics is fairly recent worldwide.  It’s available to limited areas because of the infrastructure required. In Malaysia, it’s typically known as Fibre to the Home (FTTH), and it is replacing ADSL in urban centres, bringing with it a shift to 24-month package contracts typical of a UK or US provider. This service typically offers plans ranging from 5 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Companies offering FTTH include Time, UniFi, Maxis, Astro Beyond, among others. The fibre options are typically mucher faster than the ADSL and Wireless  Broadband options.  However, fibre broadband in Malaysia is still not as fast as some fibre broadband options in the United States, like Google Fibre.

Also, in case you’re not already aware, when you get a Fibre to the Home broadband plan, you can still have your computers access it wirelessly through a wireless router.  Most Fibre to the Home broadband plans in Malaysia come with a wireless router, also known as a residential gateway.

Examples of Fibre-Optic Broadband Services in Malaysia:

Wireless Broadband

Wireless broadband represents a high speed internet connection created using a radio link between the premise and the service provider’s facility.  Speeds are generally comparable to DSL or cable broadband.  Wireless allows roaming access using a mobile device or a PC connected via a special antenna card.

A key strength about wireless broadband is the mobility it offers.  For example, a non wireless broadband options, such as fibre broadband, requires you to connect your modem to a special cable in the wall to function.  However, with wireless broadband packages, your modem connects to the internet wirelessly.  The downside with wireless broadband packages is they are typically significantly slower than fixed line broadband packages, such as fibre.

Most of Malaysia’s wireless broadband services connect through 3G or HSDPA. 3G is a generic term that was used to describe the next generation of mobile services. 3G offers internet speeds up to 384 kbps.  HSDPA is commonly referred to as 3.5G.  HSDPA offers broadband wireless speeds up to 7.2 Mbps.

While the wireless broadband speed is generally significantly slower than a Fibre to the Home connection, there is a new wireless technology emerging called 4G LTE.

4G LTE is typically 10 times faster than previous wireless broadband technology, which means the 4G LTE offers speeds comparable to many fibre broadband options. Currently, 4G LTE is limited to very specific areas in Malaysia.


Read more:What is 4G LTE

Read More: Differences between Wireless and Fiber Broadband

Examples of Wireless Broadband Services in Malaysia

Satellite and BPL Broadband

Satellite is slower than DSL but valuable for serving sparsely populated areas. Speed depends on bandwidth purchased, line-of-sight from the satellite and the weather. Broadband over the Power Line (BPL) is cutting-edge technology using existing power lines and has huge potential for outlying areas with electricity.

Wi-Fi Connection

Since some telecom companies, like Celcom, offer Wi-Fi based plans, we decided to give some explanation about this.  A Wi-Fi connection means you’re able to connect to the internet through a wireless local area network.  These plans can be particularly convenient because all modern laptops, tablets, and smartphones are Wi-Fi enabled, which means you don’t need an additional modem or SIM card to connect to the internet with this type of service.

Example of WiFi Internet Plans in Malaysia:

The emergence of broadband is behind a cultural shift in the way internet access is integrated into people’s lives. With Malaysian providers scrambling to hook new customers with improvement internet services, it’s a great time to join the revolution.

 See Also: What is the best broadband in Malaysia for me?

We would love if you shared your experiences with broadband services in Malaysia. Post comments below.


Photo credit: dullhunk / / CC BY

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