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About Modems

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A Little Bit About Modems

Telephone lines were designed to carry the human voice, not electronic data from a computer. Modems were invented to convert digital computer signals into a form that allows them to travel over the phone lines. Those are the scratchy sounds you hear from a modem's speaker. A modem on the other end of the line can understand it and convert the sounds back into digital information that the computer can understand. By the way, the word modem stands for MOdulator/DEModulator.

Buying and using a modem used to be relatively easy. Not too long ago, almost all modems transferred data at a rate of 2400 Bps (bits per second). Today, modems not only run faster, they are also loaded with features like error control and data compression. So, in addition to converting and interpreting signals, modems also act like traffic cops, monitoring and regulating the flow of information. That way, one computer doesn't send information until the receiving computer is ready for it. Each of these features, modulation, error control, and data compression, requires a separate kind of protocol and that's what some of those terms you see like V.32, V.32bis, V.42bis and MNP5 refer to.

If your computer didn't come with an internal modem, consider buying an external one, because it is much easier to install and operate. For example, when your modem gets stuck (not an unusual occurrence), you need to turn it off and on to get it working properly. With an internal modem, that means restarting your computer--a waste of time. With an external modem it's as easy as flipping a switch.

Here's a tip for you: in most areas, if you have Call Waiting, you can disable it by inserting *70 in front of the number you dial to connect to the Internet (or any online service). This will prevent an incoming call from accidentally kicking you off the line.

This table illustrates the relative difference in data transmission speeds for different types of files. A modem's speed is measured in bits per second (bps). A 14.4 modem sends data at 14,400 bits per second. A 28.8 modem is twice as fast, sending and receiving data at a rate of 28,800 bits per second.

Until nearly the end of 1995, the conventional wisdom was that 28.8 Kbps was about the fastest speed you could squeeze out of a regular copper telephone line. Today, you can buy 33.6 Kbps modems, and modems that are capable of 56 Kbps.

Speed It Up

There are faster ways to transmit data by using an ISDN or a Leased Line. ISDN requires a so-called ISDN adapter instead of a modem, and a phone line with a special connection that allows it to send and receive digital signals. You have to arrange with your phone company to have this equipment installed.

An ISDN line has a data transfer rate of between 57,600 bits per second and 128,000 bits per second, which is at least double the rate of a 28.8 Kbps modem. Leased lines come in two configurations: T1 and T3. A T1 line offers a data transfer rate of 1.54 million bits per second. Unlike ISDN, a T-1 line is a dedicated connection, meaning that it is permanently connected to the Internet. This is useful for web servers or other computers than need to be connected to the Internet all the time. It is possible to lease only a portion of a T-1 line using one of two systems: fractional T-1 or Frame Relay. You can lease them in blocks ranging from 128 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps. A fractional T-1 will be more expensive at the slower available speeds and Frame Relay will be slightly more expensive as you approach the full T-1 speed of 1.5 Mbps. A T-3 line is significantly faster, at 45 million bits per second. The backbone of the Internet consists of T-3 lines.

Leased lines are very expensive and are generally only used by companies whose business is built around the Internet or need to transfer massive amounts of data. ISDN, on the other hand, is available at a price many families can afford.

Wireless DSL

Wireless DSL is another high-speed technology that Dluxlink is offering in limited areas. Wireless DSL is always connected to the Internet, so you don't need to dial-up. Typically, data can be transferred at rates up to 1 Mbps downstream and upstream.. Since Wireless DSL is wireless you don't have to install another phone line. Visit our Wireless DSL FAQ for more information




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