|DSL vs. Cable Modem Comparison - Q&A|
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Q5: "What are the typical 'upstream' speeds of DSL and how do they compare to cable? What exactly is 'upstream' anyhow?"
A: Many DSL service plans give the home customer 128 Kbps of upstream bandwidth. That's not as bad as some people think... (see below)
The terms downstream and upstream refer to the direction data flows over the network connection. Most home users do not utilize upstream bandwidth nearly as heavily as their downstream bandwidth. However, as more small- and medium-sized businesses sign up for DSL, and as the use of bandwidth-heavy applications like Web serving and online gaming increase among home users, the issue of upstream vs. downstream grows in importance.
Some residental DSL services support better upstream performance: rates of 192 Kbps, 272 Kbps, or 384 Kbps are typical. So-called "business class" or "symmetric" DSL services support much better than that -- usually 640 Kbps or 768 Kbps.
Like DSL, most cable providers offer asymmetric service to home customers, with less bandwidth available in the upstream direction. Modern asymmetric cable services, like DSL, start at 128 Kbps upstream and increase to over 400 Kbps and up to 1 Mbps.
Note that some older cable services (like the first generation satellite Internet services) were only capable of using a standard dial-up modem for upstream access. In these older systems, upstream access is constrained by the 56 Kbps (really 33.6 Kbps) limit.
Q6: "I have cable modem/DSL service and can't access my email when I travel. Is there anything I can do?"
A: Both cable and DSL suffer from limited mobility compared to traditional dial-up. Generally a person can't just move their broadband modem to a different location and expect their Internet service to function -- primarily because different service providers employ different network protocols to connect to their systems.
Most cable/DSL providers recommend that their customers sign up for a traditional dial-up account for traveling access to the Internet. Some providers offer this service themselves (for an additional monthly fee), and some providers simply recommend free or low-cost dial-up services from a nation-wide service provider. After signing up for this option, be sure to test the network before embarking on a trip!