The history of broadband

Internet technology has been in existence for quite some time. For example, the earliest emails date back to the 1970s. This technology began to move into the mainstream during the 1990s. From that point onwards it has developed into arguably one of the most significant technological innovations ever devised.

Back in those early days of making a connection via telephone dial-up, painfully slow connection speeds of 56k were common. Just compare an 8Mb connection, which gives us 8,000Kb, with that figure of 56Kb. In effect, we then had to achieve that connection using around 5% of the connection speed now available for Ireland’s slowest broadband.

In such circumstances, downloading anything beyond text was a tortuous process. Given optimum connection speed, a single song of minimal audio quality (3.5MB) could be downloaded in around 10 minutes.

However, since all quoted speeds are ‘up to’, and not guaranteed, the actual duration might stretch to 30 minutes or even a matter of hours. Thus full-speed movie downloads took 28 hours, and low-speed downloads between three and five days - provided you were happy with a low-quality version (700MB).

Leaving aside the poor speeds, a dial-up connection also completely monopolised a telephone line. Simultaneous online surfing and normal telephone communication was just not possible over one single line. As a result, people were forced to either accept enormous inconvenience or invest in a costly extra line.

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Then broadband arrived

Broadband was a breath of fresh air for the Internet in the new millennium. Since that time, the technology has continued to advance allowing users to enjoy both uninterrupted telephone usage and high-speed connections. Using modern broadband technology, a single line can carry both Internet and telephone data signals, thus faster speeds and simultaneous use is now a reality.

The arrival of broadband networks allowed much faster downloading of files, audio, and even TV programmes and movies. Consequently, a host of new media content became available online – YouTube, and similar media sites, would have been unimaginable via a 56k connection.

As with most technological innovations, broadband was costly at the outset, and thus slow to take off. However, with the advent of a more competitive pricing structure, internet service provider competition began in areas such as offering the fastest broadband speeds , unlimited broadband deals and broadband bundles.

Now that dial-up has been consigned to history, and the market is no longer monopolised by a handful of major players, Irish consumers have the upper hand and can take advantage of some very competitive offers.

New broadband technology continues to emerge: 3G and 4G have brought reliable mobile connections, whilst new cable systems provider amazing connection speeds of up to 1000Mb.

Ireland’s 4G network has been active since 2013 and has contributed to the revolution of the broadband market by delivering new performance standards rivalling fixed-line applications.