Comparison: Broadband vs Narrowband – What to Choose in 2023

In telecommunication, both Broadband and Narrowband are terms used by internet service providers to describe how data is channeled and accessed across multiple radio frequencies. Understanding and comparing the two is important if one wishes to set up a network at home or workplace. Read this article to decide if you require a broadband or a narrowband connection.

What is a Broadband?

What is a Broadband

The term “Broadband” was popularized in the late 1990s. It was used as a marketing term for internet access which was faster than traditional dial-up access. Broadband is the transmission of wide bandwidth data over a high-speed internet connection. It enables messages to be sent simultaneously.

Broadband transports multiple signals at a wide range of frequencies and internet traffic types. Broadband also requires a medium for its propagation e.g., optical fibers, coaxial cables, wireless internet (radio) and satellites.


Is Broadband Wi-Fi?

When it comes to the difference between traditional Wi-Fi and Broadband, broadband would be described as the cables or wires coming into your house and plugged into a wireless router. The wireless internet signals transferred from this router into the air would be called Wi-Fi. In short, Broadband and Wi-Fi are not the same things. Instead, they are two different technologies that complement each other. Read LAN vs WAN Port

Types of Broadband

Following are the six major types of broadband technologies present in the world today:

Types of Broadband
  • Fiber 
  • Wireless
  • Cable modem
  • DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)
  • BPL  (Broadband over Power Line)
  • Satellite

What is a Narrowband?

Narrowband is the traditional dial-up method of accessing the internet. It involves connecting your device to a modem attached to the telephone line. Narrowband, as the name suggests, carries data across  a narrow range of frequencies i.e, a narrow bandwidth. Its speed is also limited to 56 kilobytes per second.

The telephone line infrastructure contributed greatly to the rapid expansion of the internet at the closing of the previous century. However, greater advancements in technology required easier access to the internet with greater internet speed.


Uses of Broadband

A broadband internet connection is the backbone of a region’s growth and development. In today’s digital world, the utilization of a broadband connection reflects the economic situation of a country. Businesses rely greatly on broadband and other online practices. Internet-based technologies have become pivotal in improving the quality of life. In this highly connected world, low or no connectivity is equivalent to restricting businesses and individuals from rightfully prospering.

Advantages of Broadband

Advantages of broadband include:

  • Easy and standard access to the internet
  • Greater internet speed leading to a smooth connection
  • Greater frequency accuracy
  • Minimal network congestion
  • Instant data sharing and Real-Time connectivity
  • You can use your phone alongside using the internet unlike with a narrowband connection
  • Wider bandwidth provides room for improving signal integrity
  • It can be converted to a wireless connection by connecting with a wireless router.

Less downtime The perfect option for public safety services and criminal surveillance applications because it works well with heavy applications

Disadvantages of Broadband

Some disadvantages of a Broadband connection include the following:

  • Less portability
  • More expensive
  • Inconsistent signal strength
  • Not universally accessible especially in rural areas
  • Less isolation between channels leads to a less secure connection

You can check Data Masking Vs Encryption


Comparison: Broadband vs Narrowband

Comparison Broadband vs Narrowband
Data Rate

More bandwidth means higher data rates. Narrowband channels feature lower data rate transmissions compared to broadband channels.  Broadband offers megabytes of download and upload speeds per second. Narrowband channels do not exceed 56 kilobytes per second data rate. To put it simply, broadband connections are faster.

Bandwidth

Narrowband channels take up less frequency spectrum than broadband signals. On the other hand, broadband signals are pulsatile signals that occupy a significant portion of the frequency spectrum only for a short while. Broadband channels offer a bandwidth of over 1 MHz while narrowband channels offer only less than 25 kHz of bandwidth.

Noise

Noise is inversely related to bandwidth. Greater bandwidth, as in broadband connections, leads to more noise. Conversely, the lesser bandwidth of the narrowband connections makes them less susceptible to noise.

Fading Model

Fading is the distortion in signals. In terms of internet connectivity, fading is either Flat or Selective, depending upon its mechanism.

A narrowband channel faces flat fading as all frequency components are distorted almost equally. This means adding more frequencies to the bandwidth will not solve the problem. Narrowband channels always fade uniformly.

A broadband connection faces selective fading meaning the frequencies are out of phase. A frequency equalizer can help remove the distortion.

Range

Narrowband covers communication over a very long range, efficiently. Broadband covers a lesser range comparatively. Also, increasing its range will result in decreased efficiency and a lesser frequency spectrum is covered.

Filtration

The narrowband frequency spectrum is subjected to more filters, isolating the channels. This makes narrowband a more secure mode of communication. The filters can be chosen at will.

Broadband channels, on the other hand, cannot be subjected to such filters. The channels are, thus, not isolated posing a security threat to broadband users.

System complexity

Narrowband is a primitive technology that requires low system complexity to set up. Broadband, being the newer technology, have greater system complexity as it is based on complex circuits and stages.

Applications

A narrow band system requires less operation power. This makes it suitable for localized and shorter-range apps that demand short-distances transmission. Examples include radio-frequency identification (RFID) and commercial vehicle remote keyless entry (RKE) devices.

Broadband finds its application in instant messaging, general internet browsing, gaming, fast file downloading and internet telephony.

Check Advantages And Disadvantages of Peer-To-Peer Networking


Conclusion

Both Broadband and Narrowband connectivity are useful technologies. While broadband may offer speedy internet, narrowband comes with its benefits. Both technologies are being developed for their relevant applications. However, it is up to users to choose an internet connection that best suits their requirements.

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