Structure of the broadband connection A complex infrastructure is needed to enable people to use fast internet, so-called broadband internet. Broadband coverage relies on a hierarchical structure whose levels interact in a way that the internet finally reaches the individual households.

Having access to fast internet is meanwhile a matter of course for most Austrians. However, many people do not know how the complex infrastructure behind it works and which different levels and technologies interact in this process. Therefore, we would like to provide an overview of the key components.

High-performance main lines

The first level consists of high-performance main lines which constitute the so-called “backbone network” or “core network”. These main lines run through the whole of Austria and form a kind of “backbone” of the communications networks. They transmit the signals by means of the fibre-optic technology, thus guaranteeing high transmission rates and fast internet.

Backhaul lines get the internet to the Point of Presence

Individual lower-level network nodes - for example a local distribution node in a municipality - can now be connected to this high-capacity backbone network. This is done via a network of backhaul lines (backhaul network) which in many cases also use the fibre-optic technology already. Usually each municipality has a local distribution node. This node is often also referred to as “Point of Presence”.

Access lines provide the individual households with internet

From the Point of Presence, access lines get the internet to the individual households. They are also referred to as “access network” and, depending on the state of the broadband rollout, either already use the fibre-optic technology or still the traditional technologies of copper and coaxial cables.

Fibre is getting closer to households

There are different terms describing how close the more innovative fibre-optic technology comes to the individual household. Fibre-optic cables run either to a network node in the area of the road (FTTC – “fibre to the curb”), to the building (FTTB – “fibre to the building”) or directly to the residences (FTTH – “fibre to the home”). Where the fibre-optic connection is not laid directly to the residence, traditional copper or coaxial cables are used for the last part of the way. At the point of transition, the optical signal from the fibre-optic cable is in a distribution box converted into an electrical signal which can be transmitted via copper and coaxial cables.

Optionally: Connection via mobile network

However, the link to the main connections in the core network needs not necessarily be provided via underground cables or aerial cables (i.e. on street poles). Alternatively, also a wireless connection is possible. In this case mobile base stations are linked to the fibre-optic network. From these base stations, the internet is via (mobile) radio provided to the mobile terminals (smartphones, tablets, cars etc.) and to internet cubes at home.