BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2003

  

 

BOOT CAMP 306 (23/12/03)

 

RURAL BROADBAND, part 1

 

On November 17th this year (2003) British Telecom promised to achieve 100 percent broadband coverage of every community in the UK by 2005. Whilst that might provide some comfort to those who have been waiting impatiently to join the fast lane of the information superhighway the watchword here is community. If you are living in a small village, hamlet or isolated location then you can forget broadband, via a normal telephone line at least, for the foreseeable future.

 

Broadband is now available to over 80 percent of UK households, that’s expected to reach 90 percent during 2004 as a further 2,300 telephone exchanges are upgraded but a significant number of BT subscribers are simply too far away from their local exchange to make conventional broadband economically viable. For those within reach of an upgradeable exchange there’s a lot that individuals and groups can do to hurry things along  – we’ll be looking at that in part two of this short series -- for everyone else there’s a raft of new technologies coming on stream and ultimately there will be very few places in the UK where some form of broadband isn’t available.

 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, time for a quick recap and overview. Broadband is a generic term for fast Internet access. A normal dial-up connection, with a PC and modem connected to an ordinary telephone line can theoretically download data at up to 56,000 bits per second (56kbs) though in practice it’s usually quite a bit less, and uploading data from the PC to the Internet is slower still, but it gives us a benchmark.

 

There are at least four broadband technologies, with data rates between three and more than thirty times faster than standard dial-up. In a nutshell this means web pages appear much quicker, large files (pictures and music etc.) download in seconds rather than minutes or hours and it makes ‘streaming’ possible but there are other benefits, of particular interest to business users, those working from home and Internet gamers.

 

Broadband connections are normally ‘always-on’; there’s no waiting for the modem to dial up, and email and the Internet are instantly accessible and broadband doesn’t tie up the phone line, so it can be used as normal, for incoming and outgoing calls.

 

BT and most other UK companies providing broadband access via a telephone lines use the ADSL system (see Jargon Filter) and this is capable of download speeds of up to 1 million bits per second (1Mbs), with 512kbs services being the most popular option for home users. Prices vary but for a standard 512kbs connection there’s usually a one-off installation charge of £50 or so plus a monthly subscription of between £25 and £30; 126kbs and 256kbs services are proportionately cheaper at £15 to £20 per month whilst 1Mbs connections start at around £35 a month.

 

The main rival to ADSL is Cable Broadband, which is available within cable TV catchment areas. Connection speeds are normally 512kbs or 1Mbs with some companies offering a 2Mbs service. Installation and running costs for 512kbs are broadly comparable with ADSL, or less, if you also subscribe to a package of cable TV channels or a telephone service. Coverage, even in larger towns and cities can be patchy and it’s virtually non-existent in rural areas. For more information go to: http://www.ntlhome.com/ and http://www.telewest.co.uk/

 

 

A new option for really remote locations is satellite broadband and a consumer service is being launched next month (Jan 2004). It’s a development of commercial data distribution service provided by SES Astra, which owns and operates the television broadcasting satellites used by BSKYB.

 

Data from the satellite is received on an ordinary satellite minidish, at up to 512kbs. However, it’s a one-way connection and the ‘backchannel’, used to request web pages etc., is a normal telephone line. Nevertheless, for most users, surfing the web and downloading files, it will appear as fast as terrestrial broadband. The standard 512kbs package costs £35 a month and there’s a one-off installation fee of £250, which includes a dish, digital satellite receiver and a package of free-to-air TV and radio channels. You can find out more at: http://www.avcbroadband.com/

 

 

A little further down the line there’s ‘power-line communications’ (PLC). Several electricity-generating companies are trialling a system where high-speed data is carried piggyback on mains supply cables to local substations and on to subscriber’s computers, via a special modem, through ordinary household mains wiring. Data rates can be up to 1Mbs are achievable now, for both uploading and downloading data. It’s early days and the technology has a chequered history -- trials in Manchester in 2001 were abandoned due to technical difficulties -- but new schemes in Winchester and Cambletown in Scotland show a lot of promise and trial users are getting a very good deal with a 1Mbs service costing £30 a month with a £50 installation charge. More information on the Southern Electric and Scottish Hydro pilot schemes can be found at: http://www.southern-electric.co.uk/

broadband/whychoose.asp and http://www.hydro.co.uk/broadband/faq.asp

 

Finally there’s wireless broadband, or at least there will be one day, but more about that in part two and the other more relevant applications for wireless technology in broadband networking and local distribution.

 

Next week – Rural Broadband part 2

 

JARGON FILTER

 

ADSL

Asymmetric/Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line – high-speed data connection where download speed is generally much faster than upload speed  

 

BACKCHANNEL

The return path, to the Internet Service Provider (ISP), for web page requests, outgoing email and data sent from a PC

 

STREAMING

Sound and video sent over the Internet, played and displayed on a PC in real time

 

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

Can you get broadband now? Even if you have checked in the past it is worth doing again as your local exchange may have been upgraded recently. Try BT first at: http://www.bt.com/index.jsp, click the ‘Connect With Broadband’ link and enter your phone number or postcode in the ‘Check Availability’ box. See also Freeserve (http://www.freeserve.com/time/broadbandaccess/), and there’s a checker and price comparison for ADSL, Cable and Satellite services at: http://www.broadbandchecker.co.uk/

Search PCTopTips 


Web

PCTopTips

Boot Camp Index

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

1998

 

Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME

 

 

 

 

 

 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.