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Dial-up Vs. DSL

Dial-up Vs. DSL

Connecting to the Internet involves more than just switching on the modem and the PC. There are various technologies to determine the connection between a computer and the Internet service provider and 2 basic but different methods are DSL and dial-up. Scroll below for an in-depth comparison of the two mechanisms.
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With Internet connections, there are invariable comparisons between speed, connection quality, usage, price etc. The first and for a while, dominant connection technology was dial-up. And today's favorite and easily the most popular technology used is high-speed DSL. Dial-up has always had a reputation for being slow and being prone to connection issues. DSL is thought of as expensive and extremely high quality. But what is the actual difference between the two? Below is a outline of their basic differences in a DSL vs Dial-up comparison.
Dial-up Vs. DSL Comparison
Internet Connection
Dial-up DSL
  • Dial-up connects to the Internet using the existing telephone network.
  • Half duplex connection - the same medium of communication (telephone line) is used but only one connection can exist at a time.
  • With a dial-up connection, only the phone will work or the Internet will work but not at the same time. To talk on the phone while connected to Dial-up Internet, a separate phone line is required.
  • Computer's built-in modem is used to make the connection. The connection is established through handshaking and takes at least 7 seconds.
  • A distinctive noise or high pitched sequence is heard as the connection is being made. A particular access number must be dialed to start the connection. Receiving a "Busy, can't connect" signal is possible. Manual disconnection is necessary else the Internet remains on and the phone line will remain engaged.
  • Every time the computer connects to the phone line, it has a different IP address and it cannot be changed. This Internet connection is more secure against hacking, due to a different IP address each time.
  • DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connects to the phone line but uses a different frequency band from that of the phone connection.
  • Full-duplex connection - communication medium (phone line) is the same but both voice service and Internet connection is allowed simultaneously.
  • An external or separate phone line is not required, the phone will not remain engaged if the Internet is on or being used. Since the actual phone is not involved, a DSL connection guarantees high speed throughout.
  • Physical components include a DSL modem connected to a phone line. The modem goes through an internal sync process to establish the connection.
  • The Internet is always on with a DSL connection. No need to type in any access code or number. A password and user name or email address is provided but that is just for setup. No need for manual disconnection.There is no "busy signal" issue or peak hours to be considered.
  • Static IP addresses are assigned, which is rarely changed. Multiple users can connect to the same modem through a router and at no extra cost from the DSL modem. A DSL connection is a more vulnerable type of connection but an anti-virus and firewall protection program can be used to increase security.
Speed and Usage
Dial-up DSL
  • Estimated data transfer speed is 56 Kbps at a maximum.
  • MP3 file of size 3-5 MB download can take 15-30 minutes. Some modem protocols and standards allow data compression to increase throughput.
  • Disturbances or noise in the phone line can disrupt the connection and hamper quality. Dial-up has the added limitation of low quality connection during peak or crowded times.
  • Not suited for use with online games, streaming video or media content and for video conferencing due to low speed and throughput rate. Games will lag, while connecting to a game server and during gameplay.
  • Heavy content sites with animation, Flash, graphical content will load slowly.
  • Best used for handling emails, simple low-content site browsing and other basic Internet functions.
  • Speed rate between 256 Kbps-20 Mbps.
  • MP3 file of 3.5-5 MB size will take at least 20 seconds - 1 minute to download.
  • DSL is not dependent on the phone line, so any disturbances in the phone network will not hamper or reduce the Internet connection's quality
  • High speeds and less connectivity issues means heavy duty usage. Online gaming, media streaming, downloading, video conferencing, connecting an Internet TV... all such activities can be performed with ease. Most video games recommend a broadband connection for better online gaming.
  • High graphical content and Flash or animated sites can load up quickly.
  • Simple tasks like email and web browsing on the whole is faster.
Availability and Price
Dial-up DSL
  • Can be set up easily using phone line. Connecting to dial-up possible wherever a phone line exists. There is often a very low or no setup fee unless a technician is used.
  • Dial-up installation usually has a CD setup. A password and access code are provided with the setup kit.
  • 10% of households in the U.S. still use dial-up, which accounts for 2% of the total American population.
  • Providers include NetZero, EarthLink, CdotFree, PeoplePC Online, Mfire, Juno Internet.
  • Per month costs are low but additional tariffs or fees could be levied based on usage. Adding an extra phone line can also add to the cost. An estimated $10 - $30 is the accepted per month rate.
  • Setup may require a technician's help but in most cases, it is hassle-free and easy to do it on one's own.
  • DSL Internet needs the presence of a nearby DSL station (DSLAM). Such stations are usually located in suburban or metro areas, where a lot of users are available. DSL connections are rare or practically non-existent in rural or far-off deserted areas.
  • An estimated 77.3 % of the American population use a broadband Internet connection.
  • Providers are Verizon, AT&T, EarthLink.
  • The per month fee of a DSL connection is approximatelybetween $25 and $60. There are no additional phone line costs.

It's clear from the points listed above, that there's a lot more behind the two methods, than just arguing about which is faster, dial-up or DSL speed? Hopefully, any doubts you might have had regarding the difference between a DSL and a dial-up connection have been cleared.