With the Internet becoming one of the vital services of our daily routine, the Internet bill has joined the set of compulsory monthly expenses, including the electricity bill and the various other taxes. To pay our Internet bill we turn to our ISP, the company that is responsible for delivering Internet access to our place.
What is an ISP?
The ISP, short for 'Internet Service Provider', is the company that connects your personal computer, notebook, netbook, PDA, mobile device, game station, etc. to the Internet. Another name for ISP is IAP, or Internet Access Provider.
Internet access technologies
The connection between your Internet enabled device and the global network is executed through a specific digital data transmission technology. It represents the transfer of information packets through an Internet Protocol route.
According to the method of data transmission, the Internet access that ISPs provide to users can be divided into several types, the most popular of which are:
Dial-up Internet access
This is the oldest method of providing access to the Internet. It uses a telephone line to perform a modem-to-modem connection. For that purpose, the user's computer is attached to a telephone line enabled modem device, which dials into the node of the ISP and starts transferring data between the servers that store websites the user wants to see and their Internet connected device. The dial-up Internet is today considered outdated in most Internet societies due to the slow connection speed it ensures (about 40-50 kbit/s.). However, the wide availability of telephone access makes this type of Internet access the only alternative for remote areas that remain off the broadband network. It is also the least expensive Internet access service and is preferred by users on a tight budget.
DSL, short for 'digital subscriber loop' or 'digital subscriber line', is an advanced version of the dial-up Internet access method. In contrast to dial-up, DSL uses high frequency to execute a connection over the local telephone network. This allows the Internet and the phone connections to be run on one and the same telephone line. The digital subscriber line technology ensures an Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), where the upload speed is lower than the download speed, and a Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL), offering equal upload and download speeds. Of them both, ADSL is much more popular and is even known as just DSL to users.
The cable Internet is among the most preferred methods for providing residential Internet access. Technically speaking, it represents a broadband Internet access method, using the high-bandwidth cable television network to transmit data between the global network and the households. To use cable Internet you will need a cable modem at home that will be connected with the CMTS (Cable Modem Termination System) of your cable ISP. The cable Internet access can be offered together with a cable television subscription and separately, for customers' convenience. The second case incurs higher subscription fees due to the extra equipment installation costs.
Wireless Broadband (WiBB)
This is a new-generation broadband Internet access technology, allowing the delivery of high-speed wireless Internet within a large area. Wireless broadband ISPs (WISPs) ensure connection speeds that come close to the wired broadband speeds provided by DSL and cable ISPs. To get wireless broadband you need to place a specific dish on your house roof or apartment balcony and point it to the transmitter of your WISP. This type of Internet access is used as an alternative to the wired broadband connection in remote areas.
Wi-Fi (from Wireless Fidelity) has become one of the most widely distributed Internet access methods, with the growing usage of portable computers and Internet enabled mobile devices, such as smart phones, PDAs, game consoles, etc. In this sense, it is the most mobile Internet access method, since you are able to use it everywhere as long as you are located within the scope of coverage, i.e. within the range of an Internet connected wireless network. Due to its ability to serve mobile devices, Wi-Fi is used in public places such as airports, hotels and restaurants to provide Internet access to customers. There are also specialized Wi-Fi hotspots where the service is either free or paid. Some of the largest cities in the world are in the process of building Wi-Fi networks that cover all the public places in the central areas.
Another online data transmission method worth considering is ISDN or the Integrated Services Digital Network. ISDN represents a telephone system network, integrating a high-quality digital transmission of voice and data over the ordinary phone line. Ensuring a much better data transmission over the phone line than an analog line could allow, the ISDN offers a fast upstream/downstream Internet connection speed of 128 kbit/s. This speed level can be considered as a broadband speed as opposed to the narrowband speed of standard analog 56k telephone lines.
Another Internet access type worth mentioning is Ethernet - the most widespread wired LAN (local area network) technology, also used in wireless LANs. The Ethernet technology may ensure various speed levels and can thus be divided into several types: regular Ethernet, providing transmission speeds of up to 10 mbits/s, fast Ethernet, offering up to 100 mbits/s, gigabit Ethernet, supporting 1 gbit/s and 10-Gbit Ethernet, coming at up to 10 gbits/s.