If you want to get all tech geeky about it, you could argue that without the development of the humble RJ45 interface, there would be no broadband. The original RJ45 – ‘RJ’ stands for registered jack – was used to connect the first modems to the telephone network in the 1970s. Over the years, the basic RJ45 was tweaked a little, and became the standard interface for connecting computer networks together.
Today, there is a range of RJ connectors designed to connect different networks – to get a look at this range, try searching for the RJ45 on the rs-online.com site. To put this in a more familiar context, the RJ45 is the standard cable and plug set up used to connect your Ethernet cable to the Ethernet port on your computer. So now we’ve looked at this basic technological requirement to even have a history of broadband, we can look at the introduction of broadband internet, and what this technology might be by the year 2015.
The first e-mail was sent from a modem – connected to the telephone network by an RJ45 – in the 1970’s. It was not until the 1980’s that modems became widely used, and although these devices were designed to run at a top speed of 56Kbps (kilo bits per second), the top speed that could actually be reached by a signal travelling down the average phone line was typically 38Kbps. As well as being painfully slow, the main drawback of this dial-up connection was that a single phone line could only be used for modem transmission, or phone calls – it was not possible to use both services simultaneously. Business users tended to install a second phone line dedicated to the modem, and thanks to the cost of installing a second line, modems were rarely used outside the office.
Nothing much changed about modem and internet technology until the mid 1990’s, when Digital Subscriber line (DSL) technology made it possible to provide both internet access and telephone calls along the same telephone line simultaneously. While there are more technical definitions, for the average punter this dual service is what broadband means. In slightly more technical terms, broadband refers to the greater frequency bandwidth used in data transmission, when compared to narrow bandwidth of dial up connections – the greater the frequency bandwidth, the more data it is possible to transmit per second.
In the UK, the first fibre optic cables to be widely used were in the cable television network, and it is fibre optic cables that are the future of superfast broadband, a slightly confusing term which is certainly not set in stone. As with all IT, progress occurs rapidly, and so some of the older definitions of’ superfast’ broadband already look obsolete. Some specified a minimum download speed of 20Mbps, while others took a figure of 24 Mbps, although more recently 100Mbps has been a more widely quoted figure. And 2015? This is the current target of the culture secretary to help provide 90% of hard to reach communities with ‘superfast’ broadband, with some £362 of government money already earmarked for investment. For more on the roll out of superfast broadband in rural areas, try looking at:http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/aug/16/rural-broadband-boost.
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