Narrowband is a term used to describe the speed of an Internet connection most commonly associated with a dial-up connection. Using telephone lines and transmitting over voice frequencies, the highest effective speed a connection can provide is approximately 56k, which is 56,000 bits per second.
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While many internet users today can remember much slower speeds in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the maximum speeds achieved over a narrowband connection are minimal compared to what is available today. . Even the slowest broadband speeds are usually five times faster than that.
In some parts of the world, especially in developing countries, narrowband is still the default. However, many Western European nations are ahead of the United States in terms of the percentage of Internet users who connect via broadband.
In the United States, narrowband was the undisputed most popular choice for Internet connections until 2006. That year, JD Power and Associates reported that broadband had finally become the leader in terms of access. The gap has grown in the years since, despite the fact that dial-up connections are significantly cheaper than broadband.
Interestingly, many narrowband users are quite satisfied with their service and may even prefer it to broadband. The Associated Press reported in July 2008 that only a small percentage of those with slower connections say they use it because they don’t have broadband access. Others simply don’t know why they choose this type of connection or are unhappy with the cost of broadband. Narrowband usually costs only half the cost of broadband, depending on your broadband connection speed.
While it is common to associate only dial-up Internet access with the term narrowband, it is generally considered that any connection with a transmission rate of 1.544 Megabits per second can be included in this category. This is much faster than a typical dial-up connection.
In some cases, even a slower cable service connection can be considered a narrowband speed. However, this contradicts the traditional definition, which is defined as the frequencies that conduct voice-grade communication.