Broadband Transmission Technologies

Most commonly used technologies for delivering broadband services to end users

Wireline Services:

Services provided via a physical “wired” connection, including DSL, cable and fiber-optic services.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)

Transmits data over traditional copper telephone lines already installed to homes and businesses that is limited by distance, line quality and equipment. Service is usually offered by phone companies and the availability and speed of the service depends on how far your home or business is from the nearest telephone company facility. Service extends up to approximately 18,000 cable feet in all directions from a central office (CO) or in a specific direction from a remote terminal (RT). Asymmetric DSL, commonly used for residential service, provides faster download speeds than upload speeds. Symmetric DSL, sometimes used for business service, provides the same download and upload speeds.  DSL is much faster than dial-up.

Cable Modem

Internet access offered by your cable company that comes into the house along with your cable TV service. Cable modem service enables cable companies to provide Internet connections using the same coaxial cables that deliver pictures and sound to your TV set, but require a specialized cable modem that connect to a wall outlet and a computer or router. With a cable modem, you can get online simply by turning on your computer, without dialing up an ISP, and you can still watch TV while using it. Transmission speeds vary depending on the type of cable modem, cable network and traffic load. Cable service can be offered at speeds comparable to DSL or fiber services, depending on what you are willing to pay.

Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH)

Wireline service provided via light impulses transmitted by lasers along high-capacity glass or plastic fibers capable of transmitting multiple telecommunications services, including TV, phone, and broadband. The most well known residential service of this type is Verizon FiOS. Broadband speeds vary depending on factors, including the optical networking gear used and how the service provider configures the service. Fiber has the capability to provide very high speeds.

Wireless Services:

Wireless broadband connects to the Internet using a radio frequency link between your device and the service provider’s facility. Common kinds of wireless broadband include mobile (3G/4G) wireless, fixed wireless and satellite services. 

Mobile Wireless

Most commonly available from mobile phone companies. These services are often best for highly mobile customers and require a special card with a built-in antenna that plugs into a laptop or a cell phone or tablet with a data plan. Historically they provided lower speeds, in the range of several hundred Kbps or higher, but now offer faster broadband speeds up to 10 Mbps. Mobile wireless plans often have data caps.

Fixed Wireless

Wireless Internet services are delivered from a small antenna, usually mounted on a high point such as a building or tower, to a receiver at the subscriber’s home or business. This service is usually provided by a Wireless Internet Service Provider or WISP and requires equipment to be installed at the customer location. Depending on distance and obstacles, the customer equipment may be indoors or outdoors. 


Just as satellites provide cell phone and television service, they can also provide broadband. This type of broadband requires a satellite dish with special hardware to send and receive data to a satellite in the earth's orbit. Some satellite services are capable of offering broadband speeds and are getting faster, but they usually have strict use capacity limits. Satellite is often one of the only ways to get broadband service in rural areas.