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Chapter 19. First You Need a Modem > Smart Shopping for a Fast Connection - Pg. 179

First You Need a Modem 179 The New Kid on the Block: DSL Modems Short for digital subscriber line, DSL promises to put a big dent in the ISDN market and challenge cable companies. Using standard phone lines, DSL can achieve data transfer rates of up to 1.5Mbps (9Mbps if you're within two miles of an ADSL connection center); this is about 25 times faster than a 56K modem connection. DSL achieves these rates over standard analog phone lines by using frequencies not used by voice signals. The only drawback is that DSL is a relatively new product (although the technology has been around awhile) and might not be available in your area or sup- ported by your ISP. As for costs, expect DSL to be slightly less expensive than ISDN, at least for now. The DSL modem and network card together run about $100­$200. Expect monthly service charges to range from $50­$70; this includes charges for the line itself and the Internet service. Your phone company also might charge $100­$200 for installation. Because there is no single DSL standard, don't purchase a modem without checking with your phone company. Most DSL providers market their services as a package deal and include a DSL modem that works with the service. The Pros and Cons of Cable Modems Like cable television connections, a cable Internet connection allows high-speed data transfers to your PC allowing you to cruise the Internet at the same speed you can flip channels. In addition to speed, cable modems are relatively inexpensive (starting at about $200) and are easy to install. You can expect to pay about $40­$60 per month for cable Internet access, which makes it com- petitive with DSL service and cheaper than ISDN. However, cable modems do have a few draw- backs: · Availability--Your cable company might not offer Internet cable service. · Variable connection speeds--Cable service is set up to serve a pool of users. The more users connected to one service station, the slower the connection. Although cable companies com- monly advertise 8Mbps data transfer rates, the rate you'll experience likely will be around 1­ 2Mbps; this is about 30­50 times faster than a 56Kbps modem. · Upload problems--Cable was developed to bring signals into homes not carry them out. How- ever, cable companies are developing two-way systems to eliminate this limitation. If your cable service handles only incoming signals, you'll need to install a standard modem, too. When shopping for a cable connection, the primary consideration is how the cable service handles return signals. Most services use either telephone return or RF return. With RF return, the cable modem transmits signals along the cable. With telephone return, the modem sends signals along a standard modem connection. Before you purchase a modem, check with the cable service to determine the type of return system it uses. High-Speed Satellite Connections If you're tired of waiting for the standards battles to cool off and the cable and phone companies to lay new cables in your neighborhood, move up to a satellite connection, such as DirecPC from Hughes Network Systems ( or 1-800-347-3272). DirecPC offers transfer rates of up to 400Kbps--three times faster than ISDN and seven times faster than 56K modems. And all you need to connect is the kit from Hughes Network Systems. However, as with all systems, DirecPC has its own shortcomings: · The kit is expensive--$300 for the satellite dish and adapter. · The service is expensive--$50 activation fee. Monthly rates vary: $30 per month for 25 hours (plus $2 for each additional hour) or $50 per month for unlimited connect time (If you already have an ISP, rates are slightly lower.)