Cable Modems Vs. Digital Subscriber Lines Essay

This essay has a total of 1873 words and 11 pages.

Cable Modems Vs. Digital Subscriber Lines

Cable Modems vs. Digital Subscriber Lines
Bob Fager
Econ 235ഊThe Internet has grabbed on to the world and it isn't
letting go. Nearly 36 million U.S. homes currently have PCs
and everyone is dying to jump on the information
superhighway. The Internet, which started as a group of
government agencies and universities, has grown to include
almost anyone, from home users to large companies and
everyone in between. It makes sense then that providing
Internet service is big business. The service which used to
be dominated by groups of nerdy computer whizzes using
equipment in someone's basement is now being provided by
many telephone companies, large on-line services and may
soon be available from you local cable company.
Computer users are an impatient group. They are
starving for a faster way of connecting to the ‘net. Until
now home users have had to suffer with the slow connections
available with analog modems or spend a relatively large
amount on having a digital line, such as ISDN, installed and
then continue paying a lot for the monthly charges
associated with such lines.
Standard analog modems have always been hindered by the
bandwidth they are allowed to use. Standard voice grade
phone lines use the frequency spectrum between 0khz and 4khz
to transmit their signal. 33.6 kbps modems packed nearly 11
bits of data per hertz, a remarkable feat, which is very
near the theoretical limit. To allow faster connections
modems must use a wider bandwidth.ഊTwo new competing technologies are now being developed
which use this broadband idea to give computer users the
speed they crave. Telephone companies are working on
developing a way to use the standard twisted pair copper
wires that now connect nearly every home in America to
transmit data at high speeds. These technologies,
collectively called xDSL, come in two main flavors. ADSL,
which is an acronym for asymmetric digital subscriber line,
is the most common. This name was coined by Bellcore in
1989. The other main type of digital subscriber line is
called HDSL. It stands for high-bit-rate digital subscriber
line. These two technologies are essentially the same,
except they apportion a different bandwidth to upstream
(user to network) and downstream (network to user) data
transmission.
Concurrently, cable television providers are working on
technologies to allow them to connect computers to their
network and allow users to connect to the Internet at speeds
just as high. Such equipment is being called a cable modem.
Cable modems offer the possibility of transferring data
at rates up to ten megabits per second, a speed nearly ten
times faster than that of ISDN and about twenty times faster
than today's fastest analog modems. This number is somewhat
misleading however. The truth is that in order to actually
achieve that speed you must be the only user on the network.
The reason for this is that this throughput is shared by
everyone connected to a given line. Typical cable systemsഊserve 500 to 2500 homes on
one line. Therefore the actual

throughput will depend upon how many other people in your
neighborhood are also trying to access the ‘net. Actual
speeds vary greatly.
Cable modems are already being used in several limited
areas, mostly large metropolitan areas, especially in
Southern California. According to research by The Yankee
Group there are approximately 25,000 people already using
cable modems. They expect this number to grow to around
275,000 by the end of 1998 (Tedesco).
The reason cable modems are not already widespread is
that they present a bigger technical challenge to cable
operators than anything they've ever faced. Cable companies
do not have a very good track record. They've given us lots
of unfilled promises - 500 channels of television,
interactive television and low priced telephone service.
Before cable operators can offer service to cable modems
they must upgrade their network. Only about fifteen to
twenty percent of existing cable networks are modem-ready.
The rest will need to spend a great deal of money upgrading
connectors, transmitters and sometimes wires. The biggest
problem is that most cable networks were not designed to
handle two-way communication. The amplifiers that
strengthen the signal on its way to homes only operate in
one direction. These amplifiers must be upgraded to work in
both directions before cable modems will work.ഊCable modems are a box that is external to your
computer. They are currently being produced by
manufacturers of TV top cable boxes, such as Scientific
Atlanta and General Instrument, as well as manufacturers of
computer components, such as 3Com, Intel and Motorola.
To connect to a computer, cable modems require an
Ethernet network interface card because the standard ports
on a computer are too slow to handle data at these speeds.
So, from the computer's point of view it is on an Ethernet
LAN. This makes configuring the computer quite easy. The
network interface card will send Ethernet packets to the
cable modem. The modem will then modulate the data and send
it out over the coaxial cable as an RF signal, just as cable
TV signals are transmitted.
One small problem with this scheme is that typically
this data is carried via a low-frequency band that hasn't
previously carried a TV channel. These low frequencies are
very susceptible to noise from common household electrical
devices.
Cable modems will be somewhat expensive when compared
to the analog modems being used by most computer users
today. According to Bruce Leichtman, broadband technologies
analyst for The Yankee Group "It's a Lexus product and it's
priced accordingly." (Tedesco) Generally, there will be an
installation fee of about $150 which will pay for the
network interface card and the installation by the cable
operator. Users will then pay $34.95 to $59.95 per monthഊfor the service, which will include the use of a modem
provided by the cable operator. This charge is sometimes
cheaper when coupled with cable television service, in some
Continues for 6 more pages >>




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