Guide to Broadband Hardware

Guide to broadband hardware

Many people find the world of internet technology confusing because they do not understand all the technology. They hear about things like, usage caps and megabits but they simply do not know what those terms mean to them. There are many packages on offer but that is only half the story; choosing the correct hardware is just as important.

Hardware is the actual physical components of a computer, mouse, monitor, keyboard etc. With the introduction of broadband many new components became necessary. You need to know what they are, how they work and how to choose the most sensible models. This guide will teach you all you need to know in this field.

What exactly is a modem and how does it operate?

The modem plays a core role in allowing you to connect to the internet. The word “modem” actually stands for “modulator – demodulator”. Modern, wireless modems, discussed elsewhere in this guide, converts digital data into radio signals and vice versa.

Modems were already available in the 1960’s. They were used to connect computers to terminals by using the ordinary telephone lines. However, at that stage they were only used in a very limited sense and they only became popular in the 1970’s, when bulletin board systems became all the rage. This was the early days of what is now known as instant messaging.

Until 1983 modems boasted speeds of only 300bps (bits per second). At that stage models that could transmit at speeds of 1200bps but improvements were continually made until, by 1998, speeds of up to 56 kbps (Kilobits per seconds) could be attained. Up until this time all modems used a system called frequency shift keying to transmit and receive data over a telephone line. The technology was improved to the point where a system called phase-shift keying became available but the final limit of this technology was 56Kbps.

It was in 1998 that ADSL modems saw the light and they boasted speeds of up to 8Mbps (Megabits per second). Just think, this was a jump from 56 000 bits per second to 800 000 000 bits per second! A vast improvement!

What else do you need, besides a modem?

You will need a wireless router and adaptor, but there are other components that will allow you to take maximum advantage from your internet connection. Here are a few points to consider:

  • In terms of a wireless router: think about matters such as the ease of setting it up, whether it has a built-in ADSL modem, whether it will work with your laptop computer and the distance at which it will be effective.
  • With regards to an adaptor: your laptop may be equipped with one already and if this is the case, you need to make sure that it will be compatible with your wireless router.
  • You can purchase your wireless router and adaptor from a host of reliable suppliers, including Netgear, Belkin, Buffalo and others. These suppliers can provide you with wireless kits that contain all the various components that you will need to enjoy a wireless connection. You will need the following:
  • Ethernet connectors and cables that must be selected according to the speed of your router.
  • You may want to opt for fibre cables that will ensure that servers and storage remains reliable.
  • USB cables will be necessary if you want to connect a USB device to your computer.
  • You can improve the quality of your sound and video by replacing your standard cables with better versions, such as those in the PureAV range from Belkin. These cables not only result in much better quality video and audio but they can also help to reduce interference and improve sonic accuracy.
  • You may decide to enhance your router by adding devices that will extend your wireless range. This will entail replacing the existing antenna on your router with a more efficient one. In this way the range will be improved and the signal strength will also be better.
  • You can improve the signal strength in a specific area by opting for a directional antenna. If you move around with your laptop a unidirectional antenna is better, but if you remain in one place a directional antenna will provide a better signal. Unidirectional antennas are less secure than directional models.
What other accessories are available?
  • Bluetooth products will enable communication between all devices that are Bluetooth enabled, such as cellular telephones, handsets and laptops.
  • Broadband telephones will enable you to make drastically cheaper long distance calls through the internet.
  • A microphone will enable you to make use of online messaging services that can handle voice, such as Skype.
  • Security gateways will protect you against unauthorized access and external attacks. Remember: when you have a broadband connection you are online full time and you need to have security measures such as a firewall in place. You will need anti-virus software and other software that will protect you against spyware and malware. In most cases the security provided with the router is simply not adequate.
  • A Skype phone, one of the original VoIP phones can be very handy.
  • VoIP routers are often supplied free of charge and will enable you to make cheap long distance calls by using the internet rather than your landline. The sound quality is excellent, even though your voice is converted in to data before transmission. In addition, in most cases you can enjoy enhancements such as three-way calls, voice mail and even call waiting. In the United Kingdom the most popular services are Skype and Vonage.
  • Webcams are tiny cameras that allow you to see the person you are talking to and vice versa. With a webcam and a microphone video calling has now become a reality.

We hope that you are now more confident in choosing your broadband hardware. Don’t forget that you can use our Broadband Comparison tool to evaluate the various packages on offer. You should also look at our broadband guides to learn more about every other aspect of this technology.

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