WHERE IS INTERNET
TRANSMISSION SPEED GOING?
genesis of this article is the talk by Paul McCall at the October, 1998 VBCG meeting
and a subsequent interview
by the Editor with Mr. McCall.]
Are you a computer user who believes:
"You can never be too rich or never have a modem that is too fast!" Well,
we offer no comments about being too rich, but do offer you some on the future value of
modems of any speed. Briefly stated, modems may acquire the technical status of
slide rules about as quickly as they progressed from 14.4 to 56k. During that
short period of time, many of you probably upgraded your modem at least once to get more
speed with the thought that faster is better. But, how far and in that direction is
the "state of the art" to go with this speed thing as Paul McCall raised in his
talk at the last VBCG meeting?
The message from McCall and other promoters of high speed DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)
service is that modems are on the way out as the state of the art for internet
connection. In fact, despite their label, 56k modems are having trouble delivering
speeds higher than 40-45 kbits/sec. causing most manufacturers to apply the
disclaimer speeds may vary etc.. This can be due to DSL providers poor
performance while they wait to see if they are going to spend the money needed to upgrade
their equipment while this modem issue persists. More typically, the failure to
reach 56k speed is caused by the condition of copper wire linking subscribers to their
telephone company central offices.
The technical buzzword that defines internet communication speed is bandwidth.
In laymen's terms, bandwidth signifies how much information can travel on the
internet from point A to point B in a given time. A basic bandwidth unit is
T1, which stands for a transmission speed of 200K bits (more accurately 1540K
bytes) per second. Hence, bandwidth is measured in multiples or
fractions of T1, e.g., ½T1, T3, etc. A 56k modem at peak speed handles 56K
bits/sec. or roughly ¼ T1.
As McCall reported, there are faster ways to work the internet from a PC, namely, (A) ISDN
(Integrated Services Digital Network), (B) Wireless and (C) Satellite. For the
average PC user, it seems that the 56K modem is going to be the top speed for modem
internet connections and in time will become passé. For PC users who
need more speed or simply would like to have it now, this is currently
available, but at a price. However, it appears that future advances will be with
ISDN or, particularly, Wireless and Satellite, while advances in modems fade away.
The currently average cost of standard modem 56k or lower speed connection is
$15-20. Lets look at what the current higher bandwidth connections provide and their
ISDN is a high-speed, fully digital telephone service that upgrades today's analog
telephone network to a digital system. It can operate at speeds up to 128K bits/sec.
which makes it about twice as fast as 56k modems. Connection to the telephone
system can be done in a variety of ways with internal or external ISDM adapters.
Operating software and a Web browser are supplied by the ISDM provider. Pricing
varies with location and telephone company, typically in a range about double
current 56k modem cost. If you want to ob