Compare DSL vs Cable Terminology

compare dsl vs cableTrying to compare DSL vs cable technology without some fundamental understanding of the terms involved is nearly impossible if you want to do it intelligently.  Therefore, we have created a quick glossary of all the types of terms you may see or hear if you try to compare DSL vs cable broadband technology:

Compare DSL vs Cable Networking Terms

Bonded Lines – Each wire can only carry so much data given the most current protocols and technologies.  Sometimes the solution is not to ask engineers to find new ways around physics, but simply to do things the good old fashioned American way and add a second wire to double the transmission capability.

Downstream – Downstream is a term used to describe how much data is retrieved from the Internet to your device, and is usually measured in Mbps or Gbps but can be measured in Kbps as well.  Many different types of programs can benefit from high downstream performance.

Upstream – Upstream is a term used to describe how much data is sent to the Internet from your device, and is usually measured in Kbps or Mbps, but some very high end connections may soon measure this in Gbps.  You need a high upstream performance if you wish to post media online frequently or host servers of any kind.

DOCSIS – Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, this is essentially a family of standards that enable the creation of compatible hardware devices and networks for cable broadband.

ADSL – Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line, easily the most popular kind of DSL.  ADSL offers faster downstream than upstream performance.

SDSL – Synchronous Digital Subscriber Line, a type of DSL technology where downstream and upstream performance are identical.  SDSL tends to have very good upstream performance but sub-ADSL downstream performance.

VDSL – Very high bit rate Digital Subscriber Line, a type of multi-frequency DSL that is becoming very common yet is rarely marketed as VDSL.  Most people know so little about DSL or broadband terminally that DSL or ADSL are the most common descriptions, yet VDSL is often what is technically used.

Compare DSL vs Cable Measurement Terminology

Kbps – This is an outgoing measurement that describes how many thousands (thus the K for Kilo) of bits can be transmitted per second.  A bit is a one or a zero, so 1 Kbps means one thousand ones and/or zeros can be transmitted every second.  Most providers offer a speed rating that is downstream over upstream, so 512 Kbps / 128 Kbps means that the connection can download up to 512 thousand bits per second and send out up to 128 thousand bits per second.

Mbps – Roughly 1000 Kbps depending on who you talk to.  Some argue that computers count in powers of two, so it may be 1024 Kbps in some circles.

Gbps  – Roughly 1000 Mbps depending on who you talk to.  Some argue that computers count in powers of two, so it may be 1024 Mbps in some circles, just as with the Mbps versus Kbps argument.

Ping or Latency – Ping times or latency refers to how snappy a connection is by measuring the amount of time that it takes data to make a round trip from one point on the Internet and back again.

“Up To” or Burst – Some networks have additional performance on tap that goes unused most of the time.  This performance can be temporarily allocated to users on an as-needed basis if available in what is referred to as bursting or ‘up to’ performance levels.

Compare DSL vs Cable End User Hardware

Modem – A Modem is a device that translates signals from your high speed DSL Internet or cable broadband provider and connects it to a standardized plug that is compatible with many different devices.

Router –A router, often built into a modem these days, allows for many different devices to share a single broadband connection.  In days gone by there used to be a requirement that users buy a router and support it themselves more often than not, but the proliferation of affordable computers and other devices with Ethernet technology made this integration inevitable.

WiFi or 802.11 – Just as the rise of Ethernet made its integration into the modern broadband modem a certain thing, so has the popularity of WifI (aka 802.11) networking made it nearly ubiquitous to the point where the modern modem simply has to have it.