Broadband technologies Fast internet is very important to most people in Austria. However, only few know which technologies actually provide them with broadband internet and how fibre-optic, 5G and Co. work.

Fast internet, so-called broadband internet, can be provided by means of different technologies. Presently the crucial one is the fibre-optic technology, which provides even higher transmission rates. However, also traditional technologies, like copper and coaxial cables, are still used. In addition, mobile technologies like 4G and 5G meanwhile play an important role.

Traditional broadband technologies: Copper and coaxial cables

Fixed-line networks rely on diverse technologies, traditional ones as well as novel ones. The traditional technologies transport information via electrical signals. Typical examples are copper and coaxial cables. Copper cables form the basis of the telephone network which has existed for decades now; coaxial cables are used for the transmission of high-frequency TV signals. Both are able to transmit high bandwidths and therefore represent adequate technologies for fast internet.

New fibre-optic technology ensures higher transmission rates

A more modern technology is the fibre-optic technology. In this case data transfer does not happen via electrical signals but by optical means via optical signals. Compared to the traditional technologies, this allows the transmission of a very high data volume in very short time. This type of transmission is possible over far distances and, in addition, is less susceptible to failure than the traditional transmission technologies. A fibre-optic connection ensures higher internet speeds (upload and download), shorter delays (latency times) and lower power consumption. This is crucial for applications like the participation in video conferences.

Typically, the technologies are combined

In most cases the different technologies are combined, for example by using fibre-optic for the lines to the main distributor, but the existing copper or coaxial cables for the final stretch to the residences. At the transition point the incoming optical (light) signal is, in distribution boxes, converted into an electrical signal which the copper and coaxial cables are able to transport.

Mobile broadband technologies: 5G & Co.

However, as an alternative to the transmission via fibre-optic or traditional cables, broadband internet can also be transmitted via mobile networks. Obviously mobile internet access is gaining importance for an always larger number of people. Between 2012 and 2018 the volume of data transferred via mobile networks increased twentyfold. Novel technologies like 5G are playing an important role in this context. 5G is the abbreviation for “5th generation mobile communications” (also known as “New Radio”), which will be the standard in mobile communications in the future.  As a fibre-optic network is a major prerequisite of 5G, the latter would not be possible without the area-wide rollout of fibre-optic networks. Before, the generations 4G (LTE), 3G (UMTS) and 2G (GMS) were common standards.