Spectrum Resource Center

Spectrum Resource Center


What Is Broadband Internet?

4:00 Minute Read

Broadband Internet is a high-speed Internet connection that’s always on and uses multiple channels or frequencies simultaneously to transmit data. Aside from speed, one of the greatest benefits of broadband home Internet access is that it allows multiple people and devices in your home to access the Internet at the same time via a WiFi router.

There are several types of broadband Internet service, including cable, fiber, DSL, satellite, mobile and Fixed Wireless. But, before delving into the differences between the various broadband Internet services, it’s helpful to first understand the meaning of the term broadband.

Broadband Definition

The word broadband is short for broad bandwidth and refers to high-speed transmission of a large volume of data across long distances.

It may be easier to think of broadband like a very wide road – or superhighway – with multiple lanes in both directions. The data – or information – traveling along the road, is the Internet. While the phrase, “information superhighway” was coined when dial-up Internet was in its prime, it’s certainly a fitting description for today’s modern, broadband Internet.

In terms of speed, the FCC currently defines broadband Internet as an Internet connection with a minimum of 100 Mbps for downloads and 20 Mbps for uploads.

Are All Broadband Internet Services the Same?

In short, no. While all broadband Internet services take you to the same Internet, the type of network they use, the stability of the connection and the speeds available vary greatly from provider to provider.

Broadband Internet networks can be broken down into two main categories: wired and wireless. Let’s dive in and discuss the various networks within each category.

Wired Broadband Internet

Wired broadband Internet services rely on a physical network of cables to provide access to the Internet. There are three types of wired broadband Internet networks: DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), cable and fiber.

DSL broadband providers use landline telephone wires to deliver broadband Internet service. Phone lines are limited by data capacity and distance, which is why DSL broadband Internet is limited to slower speeds and data caps are common.

Broadband cable Internet uses the same coaxial cable network that cable TV services use. Cable Internet is faster and more reliable than DSL Internet because coaxial cables have a greater transmission capacity than phone lines.

The third type of broadband Internet runs on a fiber-optic cable network that transmits pulses of light at high speeds. Spectrum Internet is powered by a fiber-rich broadband network, which is a hybrid of fiber and coaxial cable, and it can deliver download speeds up to 1 Gbps. That’s 10 times faster than the minimum speed for broadband Internet! Plus, Spectrum Internet doesn't cap your data.

One of the biggest advantages of wired broadband Internet services is security. There’s simply nothing more secure than a wired Internet connection. Spectrum Internet even includes free antivirus software with every Internet plan. Spectrum Advanced WiFi customers get even more protection with Security Shield, a built-in feature that monitors the network and blocks potential threats.

Wireless Broadband Internet

Wireless broadband Internet connections access the Internet via wireless signals transmitted across radio frequencies. There are three types of wireless broadband Internet, 1) Satellite, 2) Mobile and 3) Fixed Wireless, a streaming mobile service.

1. Satellite broadband Internet uses a satellite that orbits the Earth to beam the Internet to a receiver dish installed outside your home. Since the signal must travel such a long distance, Satellite Internet has limited speeds, is affected by the weather and has a higher latency (delay) than other types of broadband Internet services. Plus, most satellite Internet providers have data caps.

2. Mobile broadband Internet is provided by your mobile phone service provider and is accessible wherever you have cellphone service, such as in your vehicle, while shopping and outdoors. Instead of using your home Internet connection (via WiFi), your cellphone and mobile devices use a data connection to access the Internet. If you’re a frequent user of mobile Internet, you’ll want to choose a wireless carrier that offers affordable Unlimited data plans, like Spectrum Mobile

3. Fixed Wireless broadband Internet service (mobile) is transmitted from a cell tower within 10 miles of your home or a small cell node less than a mile away. Fixed Wireless broadband Internet speeds can fluctuate depending on the time of day, network traffic, your location, signal strength and network management practices. Because it’s part of a mobile network, another downside is that some Fixed Wireless Internet companies have data caps. 

What Is the Difference Between Broadband and WiFi?

Most of us access the Internet using WiFi so often that people have started to equate WiFi with the Internet. But this is not accurate. What’s the difference? Broadband Internet is a type of Internet connection you subscribe to, such as DSL, cable, satellite or Fixed Wireless. WiFi is a separate technology that shares your broadband Internet connection wirelessly with multiple devices in your home.

Do you need both broadband and WiFi? Maybe. You see, broadband Internet works without WiFi, but your computer or device must plug directly into your modem via an Ethernet cable. Cell phones, tablets, smart-home devices and many laptops do not have an Ethernet port to connect to the modem. But then, you’re physically tethered to the modem while you’re online and only one device can be connected at a time.

For these reasons, most people use a WiFi router (or a modem with WiFi capabilities) to wirelessly share their broadband Internet connection with the devices in their home. With Spectrum Internet you can add the Spectrum Advanced WiFi router to your Spectrum broadband Internet service, which offers many advanced features, such as:

  • Optimized performance to support speeds up to 1 Gbps

  • Easily manage settings and connected devices from anywhere with the My Spectrum App

  • Enhanced security and privacy with Security Shield

  • Simple device controls let you pause WiFi access anytime or based on a schedule

  • The ability to support up to 200 connected devices

What Broadband Internet Speed Do I Need?

To determine the right broadband Internet speed to meet the needs of your household’s daily Internet usage, you’ll want to assess how often each person in your household uses the Internet and their typical online activities.

Streaming TV, online gaming and video conferencing will require greater speeds than simple tasks like email and browsing the web. You’ll also want to make note of how many smart home devices you have, such as wireless security cameras, smart thermostat, smart appliances and voice assistants.

The speeds Spectrum Internet offers can be used as a guide to help you decide the best Internet speed for you. Below, you will find common activities and which Internet plan best supports each activity.

Spectrum Internet – Up to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)
 •  Download and stream on multiple devices
 •  Check email and social media
 •  Upload and download medium-size files
 •  Stream SD video seamlessly
 •  Game online

Spectrum Internet Ultra – Up to 500 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)
 •  More speed to stream and support additional devices
 •  Stream HD video seamlessly
 •  Upload and download large files
 •  Connect smart home devices and voice assistants
 •  Work remotely and attend school online from home

Spectrum Internet Gig – Up to 1 Gig (wireless speeds may vary)
 •  Our fastest speed for simultaneous streaming
 •  Stream in 4K & 8K
 •  Upload and download huge files
 •  Supports smart home technology
 •  Pro-level online game streams and VR

Some additional factors to consider when choosing a broadband Internet provider include network reliability, consistent speeds and data caps. Spectrum Internet customers enjoy Spectrum’s 99% network reliability and more consistent download speeds compared to other Internet providers. Plus, Spectrum Internet doesn't cap your data.

Internet Speed Test

If you’d like to know the speed of your current Internet connection, try Spectrum's Internet Speed Test. It only takes a few seconds to see the upload and download speeds of your Internet connection.

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