General Question

Roby's avatar

Why is dial up so slow?

Asked by Roby (2939points) September 20th, 2011

DSL is not available in my area and satellite or other fast Internet services mean I will have to give up AOL. I don’t want to do that. Are they any alternitive to DSL or the others service at least to where I can watch videos on line.

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12 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

You can have satellite internet where you live. Its kind of expensive, but its worth it, if, you are on the internet a lot or like to watch movies.

I believe the name of the business is Hughes and they have a web page.

Coloma's avatar

I’m in the same boat, no DSL across the highway up here in the hills, so Satellite ( Hughes, Wild Blue, Comcast, Dish, etc. ) is all that is available on my mountain.

My computer geek says most of his customers up here are still on dial up…it may be a dinosaur but it’s better than nothing if one cannot afford high speed.

Roby's avatar

I found that if I let a video load…sometimes takeing almost a hour, they will play. But a hour loading for 3 minutes of video? LOL

jrpowell's avatar

You don’t have to give up AOL if you use a different provider. They still charge like five bucks a month for whatever service they provide. My mom does it and we use Comcost.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I think dialup modems were restricted by law as to how fast they can be. By the time the law changed, cable and DSL had cornered the market.

mrrich724's avatar

But DSL is transferred over a phone line, why can’t you have DSL if you can have dial up?

dabbler's avatar

If the speed of dial-up modem isn’t capped by regulation, it is certainly capped by the method used to transmit data and the standards-defined resources of the POTS ( Plain Old Telephone Service ) line on which it depends.

Dial-up modems use audible tones to represent data values and the other end listening has to be able to discriminate those tones, and their variations, and reconstruct the data bits. The topped-out 56kbit modems use multiple tone sets simultaneously, detecting when any one of those tone channels goes to a new tone/frequency.
FrequencyShiftKeying FSK is used in fax machines too and lots of remote control applications due to its robustness over a simple medium.

The modern POTS line guarantees it can carry tonal frequencies up to reasonable speaking/hearing frequencies because the service is defined as voice service. Once the phone company gets the acoustic sound at it’s local panel they will convert it ASAP to a low-bandwidth digital signal because that is much less expensive to transmit than an audio channel, and there is plenty of reason for the telco to provide not much more than just enough transmission bandwidth. (They can send more voice messages over their digital networks if they each is skinnier=less cost.)
So the theoretical max amount of digital bandwidth available from a POTS will limit how much digital information can be shoved down an acoustic pipe and into a just-right-sized digital pipe.

It’s not hard to provide POTS over long distances. You just have to keep the wire connected. So at least you have that.

DSL is more demanding on the capabilities of the wire to handle high-speed signals so there is a practical limit to how far the user can be from the closest phone company switch. The higher frequency electrical signals get a lot less robust past a certain distance over copper.
Higher frequency signals can’t make it accurately through some connections and conditions that voice signals can tolerate (mostly because we do a lot of signal processing in our ears and heads to make sense of what we hear at the other end), and some lines that are tolerable for voice calls really can’t handle much more than that, including the latencies(delays) of longer lines. [ are you more than a couple miles from the closest DSL switch ? ]

jerv's avatar

As someone who used to live in the woods miles from any cities and in a place where the phone lines and switches limited one to 28.8k dialup, I can safely say that your options are satellite, moving, or dealing with the fact that video just isn’t happening. Nothing can get around the inherent limitations of dialup.

filmfann's avatar

@dabbler has it right. If you are a long way from the Phone Company’s Central Office, they will have to boost your signal by using what are called Load Coils. These make voice tones sound much louder, but they chop down the transmitting frequencies to 3000hz, which is too low for a DSL signal.
The DSL signal can travel about 16,000 feet from a CO, or a Phone Company DSL Hub. That’s about 3 miles. I live in a city about 5 miles from the CO, but I have a hub about 2000ft away, so I can get the DSL signal.

jerv's avatar

BTW, 16,000 feet is a little misleading, partly because the signal degradation over distance and partly because the distance between your house and the nearest DSLAM (which may be in their central office, but often is a remote repeater) is not the same as the amount of cable between you and them. The practical maximum is considerably shorter.

Within a mile, you will have at least 80% of your rated speed; no problems.
At ~1.8 miles, you will lose ⅔ of your speed; not good.
At 16,000 feet, you wil have lost over 95% of your speed; a 3MB/second DSL connection will be only twice as fast as 56K dialup at that range.

Unless your local telephone people want to invest a bit of money, there is no chance of DSL there, and odds are that if you live some place like that, cable probably isn’t an option either.

As for satellite… you have to read the Terms of Use VERY carefully and many satellite providers have draconian bandwidth caps and other odd conditions. Before I moved to where DSL was an option, I looked at WildBlue as they seemed to have fewer restrictions and generally not be dicks like Hughesnet.

But it seems that, for whatever reason, your big sticking point is losing AOL. Well, when I went to AOL , it said that you can get AOL access through your broadband connection for $9.99/month. You could have DSL, cable, satellite, or whatever and still keep your AOL.

Aethelwine's avatar

@jerv We use WildBlue. We always need to watch our bandwidth use. We can’t watch many videos, Skype doesn’t work for us (my husband had to quit doing his live podcasts) and neither does Xbox live. Our son is miserable without it, but we have no other choice out here in the sticks. :(

jerv's avatar

Oh yeah, I forget about that one. Thank you, @jonsblond,

Satellite may be moderately fast, especially compared to dialup, but it has high latency. What that means is that whatever you do on your computer




a little


time to get sent to whatever computer is on the other end.

That makes stuff like gaming impossible since the latency (“delay”) averages around 1,500 Milliseconds, or about 1.3 seconds longer than most non-satellite users. Enough time for another player to step around the corner, aim at your forehead, and fire without you even knowing he is there thanks to latency. Other real-time tasks like video conferencing and Skype also get a bit iffy at best.

But that is the price you pay for having a fast connection in the boonies; it’s fast but it isn’t quick.

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