There are typically two aspects to a network: the wide area network (WAN) and the local area network (LAN). The WAN side of the network is delivered by a telecommunications company (telco) or an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and typically consists of a physical link from the telco’s infrastructure in the street to the user’s premises. The physical link may consist of twisted-pair copper, co-axial cable, optical fibre, or it may be wireless in the form of “fixed wireless” or cellular. The type of link used will influence the maximum speed available to the premises for access to the Internet.
Each of the different links will also require its own form of modem or router to terminate the link at the premises and transform to WiFi or Ethernet at the premises that form the LAN. The different WiFi and Ethernet standards/protocols will influence the maximum speed attainable on the LAN.
Dialup is an old WAN access technology that makes up a mere 0.7% of all broadband subscriptions in Australia (Pearce, 2017). “Broadband” consisting of ADSL/ADSL2+, co-axial cable, optical fibre and fixed wireless are the only form of access technology supported by ISPs and will be the focus of this report.
2. Wi-Fi and Ethernet
Once the broadband connection reaches the modem or router (that incorporates a built in modem), a local area network (LAN) can be created to connect more devices to the network using Wi-Fi or ethernet cables connected to RJ45 sockets in the router. Whether the LAN is set up using Wi-Fi or ethernet will also affect network traffic speed, with ethernet being more stable and faster than Wi-Fi as there is a dedicated cable from the router to the end device (Wei, Wang, Zhan, Kurose & Towsley, 2005) .
2.1 Wi-Fi (WLAN)
The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) defines the Wi-Fi protocols under the 802.11 family of standards. The advantage of WLAN is that it is scalable, making it the typical choice for local area networking (Wei et al, 2005). Different 802.11 protocols use different radio frequencies for Wi-Fi connection, the two standard ones being 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz; dual-band routers will support both of these frequencies. Speed on the WLAN can range from 11 Mbps using the early 802.11b protocol to multi-gigabits per second using the latest 802.11ac protocol that achieves the high speed using a combination of multi-input, multi-output (MIMO) technology combined with high-density modulation (“Cisco Aironet 3600”, 2019).
2.2 Ethernet (LAN)
An ethernet LAN is a switched communication system that allows for multiple devices to be connected locally such that data packets may be distributed among them (Shoch, Dalal, Redell & Crane, 1982). The advantages of ethernet are that it is cost friendly, stable under high loads, robust and supports “relatively high data rates” (Shoch et al., 1982). In other words, it is a reliable networking medium. The IEEE defines the ethernet protocols under the 802.3 family of standards. In 1990, the 10BASE-T (802.3i-1990) standard defined a speed of 10Mbit/s over Cat-3 twisted pair cable. That evolved to 100BASE-TX (802.3u-1995) with a speed of 100Mbit/s over a Cat-5 twisted pair and the 1000BASE-T(802.3ab-1999) with a speed of 1000Mbit/s over a Cat-5e twisted pair. The latest standard for copper-based Ethernet is 10GBase-T (802.3ae-2002). In 2016, the IEEE introduced 2.5GBASE-T(802.3bz-2016) and 5GBASE-T(802.3bz-2016) gigabit ethernet standards that have speeds of 2.5Gbit/s and 5Gbit/s over a Cat 5e and Cat 6 respectively (Cisco Systems, Inc., 2003).
The disadvantage of Ethernet is that beyond small LANs (as one would observe in a private household or a small business for example) it is not as flexible as Wi-Fi when the network must grow to meet the needs of a larger organisation. Nevertheless, Ethernet is used in organisations alongside Wi-Fi, predominantly to connect fixed infrastructure such as printers and servers (Kim, Caesar & Rexford, 2008).
3. Network Speed
3.1 Dial Up
Dial-up internet, first commercialised in 1989 (Zimmermann & Emspak, 2017), provided the first mode of internet connection to be used in homes on a public scale. It relied on the use of copper-wire telephone lines (twisted pair cable) and therefore if someone were to be connected to dial-up internet, the landline phone could not be in use simultaneously. Dial-up internet relied on having a modem that would make a phone call to another modem at the other end of the telephone line provided by the telco or ISP. The two modems would synchronise signals along the telephone line so that the person could access the Internet from their home. The capability of the modems dictated the speed of the link. The first modem serviced a download speed of 110 baud, equivalent 110 bps. The maximum speed being 56 kbps. Compared to modern broadband, dial-up delivered a very slow connection.
One such modem was:
U.S. Robotics 005686-03 56K V.90 External Fax Modem Specifications: Cost:
External modem USD$27.50
(From Ebay: since dial-up has gone out of popularity in favour of faster broadband delivery technologies, the place to buy dial-up modems are online stores such as Ebay and Amazon)
3.2 Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) – the jump to “Broadband”
With regards to speed, a step above dial-up is ADSL. ADSL and ADSL 2+ services still use the same copper wire telephone line as dialup but uses a different technology to dialup known as digital subscriber line (DSL). DSL uses a frequency spectrum that is higher than that employed for voice calls. As a result, with the aid of a DSL filter, a single telephone line can support both a data connection and a voice call simultaneously. A DSL filter acts like a Y-adapter splitting the incoming telephone line into two separate lines: one line leads to the normal telephone, the second line leads to the ADSL mode, or router. The DSL filter filters out the lower voice frequencies from reaching the modem/router. The “asymmetric” element of ADSL refers to the two different frequencies used for the transmit and receive signals. The receive signal at the user’s premises uses a higher frequency than the transmit signal resulting in significantly higher speed in the download direction than in the upload direction. The capability of ADSL and its later update ADSL2+ is dependent on the quality of the copper wire and the distance between the subscriber (user) and their telephone exchange (Waring, 1991; G.992.3: Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line Transceivers 2(ADSL2), 2009) . The theoretical maximum speed for ADSL is 12 Mbps download and 256 kbps upload. For ADSL2+, it is 20 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. Referring to Table 2, ADSL/ADSL2+ download speeds from the ISPs are all quoted to be up to 20Mbps, typical evening speeds which quote actual expected speeds by multiple ISPs, quote speeds close to but slower than 20Mbps downstream (“iiNet NBNTM Plans”, 2019; “TPG ADSL2+”, 2019; “Telstra NBNTM and broadband plans”, 2019).
3.4 Cable or Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC)
Hybrid fibre-coaxial utilises both fibre and coaxial cables to deliver the broadband connection. Between the telephone exchange and a central node within a neighbourhood is fibre, then from the central node to the building is a coaxial cable (generally referred to as just “cable”). In Australia, services such as pay-tv are delivered via cable. With regards to Internet access, ISPs offer plans with theoretical downstream speeds of 100Mbps and 2Mbps upstream. These are speeds similar to that of fibre, as will be discussed next. (“NBNTM hybrid fibre coaxial explained”, 2019 )
The National Broadband Network (NBNTM) currently being rolled out in Australia primarily relies on optic fibre rather than the copper wires that ADSL and dial-up relied on. The fibre is manufactured from glass and can transmit data over long distances using light rather than electrical signals (“The technology that connects your premises”, 2019). Unlike the ADSL router which connects to the telephone line via an RJ11 socket, routers that support NBN will have a WAN Ethernet connection to an NBN modem which is then connected to the NBN cable. Theoretically, there is no performance limit to optical fibre, the only limit being the transmission technology that is applied to the ends of the fibre, or in the case of Australia’s NBN, how that fibre is delivered.
Depending on the NBN tier that the customer purchases they can have different types of connection, the fastest being fibre to the premise (FTTP) where the customer has one dedicated fibre cable to their premises. The next fastest option is fibre to the basement (FTTB), fibre to the curb (FTTC), and finally fibre to the node (FTTN) (“The technology that connects your premises”, 2019; “NBNTM Australia’s national broadband network”, 2019). In each of these cases, the length of fibre from the telephone exchange to the customer’s premises decreases. The shorter the fibre run to the user’s premises, the more the bandwidth will be degraded due to copper being used to complete the link.
Since FTTC/B/N do not connect directly to the end user’s modem, their speed will be affected significantly by the quality of the copper-wire telephone line ((“Critical information summary”, 2019). Referring to Table 2., the iiNet NBN50 represents a theoretical maximum speed, however actual speeds according to iiNet are expected to be 45.5Mbps (typical business hours speed, 9am – 5pm) and 42.7Mbps (typical evening speed, 7pm – 11pm), according to iiNet, these numbers reflect the usage of 3 to 6 simultaneous users. On the NBN100, which represents a theoretical maximum speed of 100Mbps, actual speeds are expected to be 78.5Mbps (typical evening speed, 7pm – 11pm) and 85.8Mbps (typical business hours speed, 9am – 5pm), for 6 to 9 simultaneous users (“Critical information summary”, 2019). The expected speeds quoted by the ISP is not just dependent on the type of NBN technology used to deliver the Internet service to the user, there is also another element: the NBN Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC). The CVC refers to the virtual circuit bandwidth that the ISP purchases from the NBNTM for its own connection into the NBNTM network. This governs how much contention (or over-subscription) the ISP has built into their network. The contention indicates how many users are sharing the fixed bandwidth that ISP has implemented between themselves and the NBNTM‘s backbone, ISPs do not publicise their NBN CVC (Pearce, 2018; “NBN launches new CVC pricing model”, 2017).
Internet Service Provider (ISP): Monthly Data Speed Contract length
TPG Unlimited Data Up to 12 Mbps download/ 1Mbps upload (Basic Speed)
*10 Mbps Typical Evening Speed 18 Months Bundled:
NBN Broadband + Home phone, Wi-Fi Modem Included $59.99/month
TPG Unlimited Data Up to 20 Mbps Month to month Bundled:
ADSL/ADSL2+ Broadband + Home phone $59.99/month
iiNet Unlimited Data 50 Mbps (Standard Plus Speed) 24 Months
Bundled: NBN Broadband + Home phone $79.99/month
Telstra Unlimited Data 50 Mbps theoretical speed, (40Mbps typical minimum speed) Month to Month Bundled: Cable Broadband + Home phone $90/month
iiNet Unlimited Data 100 Mbps (Premium Speed) 24 Months Bundled:
NBN Broadband + Home phone $99.99/month
In this report, it is recommended that a consumer elect the Standard Plus Speed iiNet Bundled NBN Broadband + Home phone plan from the options discussed previously. According to iiNet, the Standard Plus (NBN50) plan will deliver Typical Evening Speeds of 42.7Mbps downstream and between 1Mbps and 20Mbps upstream. Despite iiNet’s Premium Speed giving the consumer 1.000Mbps per dollar and the Standard Speed plan gives 0.6251Mbps per dollar, for the price conscious everyday consumer looking to service a larger household that will have multiple devices connected for browsing, downloading, watching media on the internet and playing games, the Standard Speed plan will suffice. To set up a LAN at home, it is recommended to use both ethernet and Wi-Fi to enjoy the benefits of scalability from WLAN as well as fast and reliable connection from ethernet. Cat-5/Cat-5e cables are recommended since they are compatible with ethernet protocols that deliver 10/100/1000Mbit/s.
Regardless of the LAN speed, the overall speed is limited by the slowest link; therefore, regarding Internet access that will be determined by the WAN speed. Dialup is no longer available as a practical technology in Australia. There are several factors that affect network speed including whether the LAN is set up using Wi-Fi or Ethernet, the number of devices connected and most significantly, the quality of the copper-wire infrastructure connecting the telephone exchange to the individual’s private modem/router. For consumers looking to purchase the fastest connection speed, this would be NBN FTTP since there is a dedicated fibre up to the end-user’s premises. This would also come with the highest price tag. FTTN/B/C offer the next best service. The suitability of the broadband plan will also differ from consumer to consumer since currently, NBN (and hence, fibre) is not yet available to all. In which case ADSL/ADSL2+ or cable might be available.
- Pearce, R. (2017). Not enough Australian dial-up users to bother counting, ABS says. Computer World, Retrieved from https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/617353/enough-australian-dial-up-users-bother-counting-abs-says/
• Wi-Fi and Ethernet:
- Cisco Aironet 3600 series access point data sheet. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/collateral/wireless/aironet-3600-series/data_sheet_c78-686782.html
- Cisco Systems, Inc. (2003). CNAA: Network Media Types. Retrieved from http://www.ciscopress.com/articles/article.asp?p=31276
- Kim, C., Caesar, M., & Rexford, J. (2008). Floodless in SEATTLE: A scalable ethernet architecture for large enterprises. ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, 38(4), 3-14. Retrieved from: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1402961&dl=ACM&coll=DL
- Shoch, J. F., Dalal, Y. K., Redell, D. D., & Crane, R. C. (1982). Evolution of the ethernet local computer network. Computer, 15(8), 10-27. Retrieved from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=1654107&isnumber=34672
- Wei, W., Wang, B., Zhang, C., Kurose, J., & Towsley., D. (2005). Classification of access network types: ethernet, wireless LAN, ADSL, cable modem or dialup?. Computer Networks, 52(17), 3206-3217. Doi: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=1498334&isnumber=32100
• Network Speed and Bandwidth:
- Critical Information Summary. (January, 2019). Retrieved from https://assets.iinet.net.au/website/about/legal/cis/cis-nbn-fibre-2019-01-17.pdf
- G.992.3: Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line Transceivers 2(ADSL2). (April, 2009). Retrieved from https://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-G.992.3-200904-I
- NBNTM hybrid fibre coaxial explained. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nbnco.com.au/residential/learn/network-technology/hybrid-fibre-coaxial-explained-hfc-3
- NBNTM Australia’s national broadband network. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.optus.com.au/shop/broadband/nbn
- NBN launches new CVC pricing model. (June, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.nbnco.com.au/corporate-information/media-centre/media-statements/nbn-launches-new-cvc-pricing-model
- Pearce, R. (2018). NBN Co warns of potential network congestion as discounts end. Computer World, Retrieved from https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/647730/nbn-co-warns-potential-network-congestion-discounts-end/
- The technology that connects your premises. (2019). Retrieved from https://www1.nbnco.com.au/residential/learn/network-technology
- “U.S. Robotics 005686-03 56K V.90 External Fax Modem” from https://www.ebay.com/itm/US-Robotics-56K-Sportster-V-90-External-Fax-Modem-5686-03-/371279499179
- Image from: https://www.usr.com/en-support/product?prod=5686
- Waring, D.L. (1991). The asymmetrical digital subscriber line (ADSL): a new transport technology for delivering wideband capabilities to the residence. IEEE Global Telecommunications Conference GLOBECOM’91: Countdown to the New Millenium Conference Record, 3(-), 1979-1986. Retrieved from: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=188706&isnumber=4777
- Zimmermann, K. A., & Emspak, J. (2017). Internet History Timeline: ARPANET to the World Wide Web. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/20727-internet-history.html
Broadband Plans (Table 2.)
- iiNet NBNTM Plans. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.iinet.net.au/internet-product/broadband/nbn/plans/fibre
- Telstra NBNTM and broadband plans. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.telstra.com.au/internet#plans
- TPG ADSL2+. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.tpg.com.au/products_services/adsl2-standalone