Internet access can be provided using different broadband technologies including satellite, cable, telephone wires, wireless or mobile connections. Available broadband services can vary across Northern Ireland.
You can connect to the internet via a telephone line and a modem (either connected to or installed inside a computer). You will also need to sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
With a standard dial-up service, users wait for a dial-up connection from their phone line to use email or the internet. Standard dial-up access has been largely replaced by broadband connection.
Broadband internet services are usually provided over a standard telephone line. However, the phone and internet signals are separated - so you can use your phone at the same time as the internet.
Broadband gives you much faster access to the internet, allowing you to download large files quickly (such as video and music). Broadband is constantly connected, so you don't have to wait for a connection to be made when you want to use the internet.
You might also decide to go for wireless or mobile broadband. For wireless broadband you need to buy a router - or you might get one from your ISP as part of your service package. Remember, your computer or laptop must also be wireless enabled.
A mobile broadband connection can be used anywhere that you get a mobile phone signal, but you need to arrange the service through a mobile broadband provider.
If Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) broadband is not available in your area via your phone line, there are alternatives. These include:
Cable companies offer high bandwidth services over existing cable networks. A cable modem can offer a similar speed to ADSL services.
Broadband internet access can be brought into your home via satellite. Currently, there are two types of satellite broadband available:
One way access provides a very fast connection, but you can only receive information. For example, you can download internet pages and files, but you can't upload email attachments. If you need to send information back, you will need to use a cable modem, or dial-up service.
Two way allows information to be sent both ways. You can send data files back, as well as receive them, via your satellite. However, sending information back via this service is slow and expensive.
The advantage of using satellite broadband services is that it can be used anywhere.
There are also Wi-Fi hotspots which can give you access to fixed-line broadband at different locations. You don't have to pay for equipment but you pay for your time online. Usually, there are no usage limits. Hotspots are normally quicker than mobile broadband for browsing and downloading. You can get free Wi-Fi but for the best coverage you'll have to pay.