Speaking in broad terms

Weigh up the options before you select the right broadband option for your home, Kya deLongchamps reports.

If you spend hours online, have multiple users and download a lot of music and film, the cap limit will impact on your service. With 4mb broadband you can expect to download a five minute song in just 10 seconds, a task that would have taken 56K dial-up connections over 12 minutes to complete.

BROADBAND, that fast up to the minute connectivity to the internet, has become something of an essential for the family home. Being off-line now infuses the same wide-eyed panic among otherwise sensible grown ups formerly reserved for the power letting us down at dusk on a school night. Choosing an internet service provider (ISP) can be complicated, as the services and deals vary wildly and the terminology, such as download speeds, and packets, turn information technology to consumer fog. 

The joy of broadband through a DSL (Digital Service Line), cable or wireless IPS, is that we can now enjoy instant entertainment without a perceptible lag to download the music, film or documents as we did with that stuttering dial-up feeling. Often the file involved downloads faster than it takes it to play, something known as ‘streaming.’ The information arrives as instantaneous packets, delivering fast flicking pages when browsing and uninterrupted, clear visuals vital to the teenage (and adult) cult of live gaming. With 4mb broadband you can expect to download a five minute song in just 10 seconds, a task that would have taken 56K dial-up connections over 12 minutes to complete. If you want to spend more time at home you can log onto the office in real time, making remote working a practical prospect. 


DOWNLOAD SPEED: This is how fast information (termed data) will arrive to your computer from a source on the Internet. For large files such as movies, a fast download speed means less frustration. 

UPLOAD SPEED: This is how fast data will be delivered from your computer to the internet, for example when gaming, you need fast upload speeds to keep in play with a remote player. Download and upload speeds are measured in kilobytes per second or the larger megabytes per second (Kbps and Mbps). 

NETWORK: This is if you have more than one computer in the house and they are all connected to the internet via what is termed your ‘home network.’ Your download and upload speeds will be influenced if more than one person is online at a time, and likely to be slower than that quoted by your supplier during these periods. 

CAP: Meaning the amount of data you are allowed to transfer per month. ISPs reserve the right to charge per megabyte (MB) if you go above the cap stated for your deal. If you spend hours online, have multiple users and download a lot of music and film, the cap will be important. If you just browse the Internet and use email, less so. Some service providers have no set cap. 

ADSL/SDSL (DSL): Asymmetrical Digital Line Service and Symmetrical Digital Service Line broadband are delivered through your existing Eircom telephone line, using a modem or router. It has no effect on your existing phone line and you can use both at once unlike dial up. SDSL uploads and downloads at the same speed, while ADSL has different speeds for uploads and downloads. 

CABLE: If you have a cable TV service, you can receive broadband via the same cable. This is more likely in an urban situation, but worth considering as a bundled package deal. Speeds are comparable to DSL. 

WIRELESS BROADBAND: Available through independent firms using line of sight masts, and the existing network of the mobile telephone companies O2, Vodaphone and Meteor, wireless broadband can be the answer to a prayer if you live in a broadband black spot. You can use a ‘dongle’ from your mobile phone service provider plugged into your USB port to roam with your laptop. Speeds can be slower than DSL and CAPs more limited. 

SATELLITE BROADBAND: Formerly wildly expensive, satellite broadband (another form of wireless broadband) has become far more affordable through 6-10mb deals on offer from new providers Onwave (www.onwave.ie). Ideal if you find yourself unable to get a wired service and mobile providers don’t suit, Onwave can get you broadband no matter where your house is parked. Installation charge €129. 

Choosing a provider that’s right for you 

The current providers of ASDL, SDSL, LLU (local loop unbundling) and wireless broadband in Ireland include: Imagine, BT Broadband, Magnet, Eircom, O2, Vodaphone, Digiweb, and Irish Broadband, UPC (cable) and UTV Internet. 

* The first thing to determine is which providers cover your immediate area. 

* Deals can be bundled with landline telephone, TV and mobile phone service or offered as a single service, so if you have a provider of other utilities see what they can do for you. 

* Upload, download and caps will vary and terms and conditions can be limited, so read the small print before committing to a set term contract. 12 months is a long time in the wrong deal. 

* Some providers will offer free installation of their service, and prices per month start from around €40 for moderate speeds and a reasonable cap. 

* You can compare the deals on offer from most Irish providers through the site www.broadbandireland.ie. You can test the operating speed of your current broadband connection instantly, useful if you’re unsure of the performance of your ISP and your home network and considering a change. 

* Bonkers.ie (www.bonkers.ie) include the further providers including Perlico, Clearwire, Onwave and many others in their comparison site. Otherwise, go to the websites of your prospective service or call their sales department to get a quote for your individual needs. 



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