Most people, particularly in urban and suburban areas, enjoy several options for how to connect to the internet. The connection method you choose affects how a home network must be set up to support internet connection sharing.
Digital Subscriber Line
DSL is one of the most prevalent forms of internet connection. DSL provides high-speed networking over ordinary phone lines using digital modems. DSL connection sharing can be easily achieved with either wired or wireless broadband routers.
In some countries, DSL service is also known as ADSL, ADSL2 or ADSL2+.
Cable Modem Internet
Like DSL, a cable modem is a form of broadband internet connection. Cable internet uses neighborhood cable television conduits rather than telephone lines, but the same broadband routers that share DSL internet connections also work with cable.
Cable internet is perennially more popular than DSL in the United States, but in many other countries, the reverse is true.
Once the world standard for internet network connections, dial-up is slowly being replaced with higher-speed options. Dial-up uses ordinary telephone lines but, unlike DSL, dial-up connections take over the wire, preventing simultaneous voice calls.
Most home networks employ Internet Connection Sharing solutions with dial-up internet. Dial-up routers are difficult to find, expensive, and, generally, do not perform well given such a slow internet pipe.
Dial-up is most commonly utilized in lightly populated areas where cable and DSL Internet services are unavailable. Travelers and those with unreliable primary Internet services also use dial-up as a solid secondary access method.
Integrated Services Digital Network
In the 1990s, ISDN internet served many customers wanting DSL-like service before DSL became widely available. ISDN works over telephone lines and like DSL supports simultaneous voice and data traffic. Additionally, ISDN provides two to three times the performance of most dial-up connections. Home networking with ISDN works similarly to networking with dial-up.
Due to its relatively high cost and low performance compared to DSL, today ISDN is only a practical solution for those looking to squeeze extra performance from their phone lines where DSL is unavailable.
Enterprises like Starband, Direcway, and Wildblue offer satellite internet service. With an exterior-mounted mini-dish and a proprietary digital modem inside the home, internet connections can be established over a satellite link similar to satellite television services.
Broadband over Power Line
BPL supports internet connections over residential power lines. The technology behind power line BPL works analogously to phone line DSL, using unused signaling space on the wire to transmit the Internet traffic. However, BPL is a controversial internet connection method. BPL signals generate significant interference in the vicinity of power lines, affecting other licensed radio transmissions. BPL requires specialized (but not expensive) equipment to join to a home network.
Do not confuse BPL with powerline home networking. Powerline networking establishes a local computer network within the home but does not reach to the internet. BPL, on the other hand, reaches to the Internet Service Provider over utility power lines.
Likewise, phone line home networking maintains a local home network over phone lines but does not extend to the Internet connection of a DSL, ISDN, or dial-up service.
Other Forms of Internet Connectivity
Other forms of connectivity are relatively rare, or out-of-date, but still occasionally available for subscription:
- Fractional T1/T3 Internet: T1 and T3 are the names telecommunications firms have given to leased line network cables. Installed in some multi-resident dwellings, fractional T1/T3 lines are typically underground fiber or copper cables that connect directly to the service provider, with individual home connections switched over Ethernet cables.
- Cellular Internet: Mobile internet over digital cell phones or cellular routers offer good access but most include data caps.
- Wireless Broadband Internet: WiMAX technology supports high-speed wireless internet using base stations like cellular networks. So-called WiFi community or “mesh” networks serve a similar function using different technologies.