ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How Broadband Cable works... or doesn't

Updated on July 13, 2008
The ins and outs of cable broadband differ significantly from ADSL.
The ins and outs of cable broadband differ significantly from ADSL.

Most homes and businesses in the country have a choice of receiving their broadband either through the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines or through the coaxial cables which are used for delivery of television signals. Although there are effectively very little differences in the user experience between both types of broadband, the technical differences are significant. Although DSL uses a specific modem to feed the signal to and from your PC, cable uses a cable modem which works on completely different technology, although the result is the same.

The essence of the difference is that where DSL is an additional signal which travels along your POTS landlines, cable broadband is carried literally inside your television signal. The cable internet is transmitted inside a tunnel that is usually 6MHz wide and allows for download speeds of approximately 5 Mbps and upload speeds of around 256 Kbps. Cable internet broadband is even more sensitive to multiple users sharing the same bandwidth as ADSL, so this download speed is generally rarely achieved at times other than 6 am on a Sunday. When you have a lot of people trying to use the internet through the same cable broadband connection, each user is going to find that everything slooooooooooows down.

Your cable company has created a huge network in your area to service the broadband customers. Each neighborhood in your area is likely covered by a different network node. The average bandwidth that most cable operators provide to each node is approximately 27 Mbps. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that if you have 10 people on that node, each will be receiving about 2.7 Mbps of bandwidth. But if you have 400, each of you will have barely more bandwidth than you would get on a dialup modem.

Just because 400 people are currently utilizing the node that doesn't mean that the speed will drop to such Triassic levels. All 400 would have to be simultaneously downloading to use up the bandwidth to that extent. However, with the explosion in torrent downloads, that is no longer as absurd a prospect as it once was and many conventional coaxial cable broadband systems are swamped with users and they all complain about the sloooooooooooowness.

Many of the major cable television and broadband suppliers are in the process of upgrading their networks where possible to fiber optic which increases the bandwidth and up/download speeds considerably. It is important when considering a fiber optic installation to ensure that you have fiber straight through. If there is a fiber optic network connecting your cable headquarters to your street corner but it's normal coaxial cable from the corner to your house, you will not see any of the massive advantages that fiber optic networks offer.

You don't have to venture far to hear vociferous debate about which is better, faster, or more reliable, cable or ADSL broadband. The bottom line is that it differs from ISP to ISP and from location to location. I've experienced cable and ADSL broadband that was so fast I thought I had died and gone to heaven and also cable and ADSL broadband that was so sluggish it made me tear what little hair I have left out of my scalp. Similarly I've had ADSL and cable broadband that didn't work for hours or days on end. Fortunately with the advent of fiber optics, both ADSL and cable may soon be offering much faster, and hopefully far more reliable, service to broadband customers.


Check out hundreds of Hal's PC Technology articles in these categories:


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My broadband has been sefufring just lately, getting slower and slower as the months go by. I had an engineer visit because they diagnosed a REIN (interference) issue which is being caused basically by too many people connected down one pipe on Middlemore. So although there is nothing that can be done I was informed by the Openreach engineer that Middlemore is due to have FTTC (Infinity) in 8 months time, hopefully bringing an end to our terrible broadband. He also fitted an FTTC (Infinity) ready faceplate on my master phone socket.

    • RichPt profile image


      8 years ago

      Cable has always performed better for me (over in the UK), though the providers to use 'traffic management' systems to penalise heavy users which can really slow speeds at peak times.

    • profile image

      Cable Modem 

      8 years ago

      Great hub. I didn't realize that ADSL can be as fast as broadband.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      My pleasure! :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank you for clearing that up for me!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)