Many technologically inexperienced people wonder what the relationship between DSL and broadband Internet is. This question is common, since Internet service delivery is a highly technical field—one that involves a variety of other technical jargon to make things hazier—just in case the two above terms aren’t already confusing enough.
To avoid confusion, let’s start by defining “broadband.” Without getting too technical, broadband refers to a wide band of radio frequencies within a certain specifically defined range. Because broadband contains so many separate frequencies, which act as individual data channels, it is capable of transmitting a great deal more information at one time than other, narrower band types. If you think of broadband Internet as a highway with many different lanes, you’ll better understand the broadband concept. In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard the Internet described as “the information superhighway.” This is the reason why.
DSL and Broadband: The Relationship
Where does DSL fit into this discussion? DSL is a type of broadband Internet and is, in fact, one of several different broadband types. Thus, the relationship between the terms “DSL” and “broadband” would be roughly equivalent to the relationship between the terms “collie” and “dog,” where “DSL” would be equivalent to “collie” and “broadband” to “dog.” “Broadband,” therefore, is a more general term than “DSL”—a term that answers the question, “Which kind of broadband?” Just as all collies are dogs but not all dogs are collies, all DSL is broadband, but not all broadband is DSL.
DSL Broadband: What Is It?
The term “DSL” stands for “digital subscriber line,” which refers to the telephone line that carries the digital data to your computer. Your telephone line can easily handle this data because it is transmitted via a different frequency band than your voice calls. So, unlike the older dial-up Internet connections, which used the same frequency band as voice calls—only allowing callers to use the telephone or the Internet but not both at once—DSL lets you use the Internet and your telephone simultaneously. Therefore, DSL is a type of broadband, but dial-up is not.
Cable Internet is the most common type of broadband other than DSL and is actually more popular since it’s typically faster. Just as its name implies, cable Internet uses a (coaxial) cable to transmit your Internet data. As with DSL, your TV cable can transmit Internet data and your TV signal simultaneously, so you never have to choose between Internet and TV, nor do you have to hook and unhook your cable to switch from one to the other. While cable is typically faster than DSL, it doesn’t always deliver the speed it promises. It’s also more expensive.
Other Major Types of Broadband
Other broadband types include the following:
Fiber Optics: This newer type of broadband technology sends data across a network of thin glass fibers. It’s very fast, but also very expensive and not in common use.
Mobile: This newer technology gives cell phone users and others wireless broadband Internet access on their digital devices—a technology that is growing in popularity.
Satellite: This technology is rarely used since it is prohibitively expensive. As fast as it is, the long distance the signal must travel also creates a delayed response that can make it inconvenient for uses that require immediate feedback.
Sam Jones, the author wanted to know “what is broadband” and how it was different so decided to dig into the differences.