Broadband: Instant Worldwide Communications

By: Paul McIndoe

Those with long enough memories will remember the first wave of dot.com mania in the 1990s, which led to a host of web businesses being valued at multi-millions of pounds by the stock market, despite never having generated any meaningful revenue. Many of those over-valued companies subsequently failed to make the predicted profits and disappeared without trace, incurring huge losses and leaving a lot of investors with burnt fingers.

One of the prime reasons for the failure of those early online businesses wasn't because their ideas or business models were outlandish it was because they relied upon 26kbps dial-up to deliver their website to the consumer. That proved to be far too slow as many website pages took far too long to download, provoking widespread disillusionment amongst web-users. As a result many turned their back on cyberspace, companies failed in their thousands, and the early optimism of internet entrepreneurs dissolved.

It has taken the widespread introduction of broadband access to the internet to reverse dot.com fortunes. Now, with download speeds of upwards of 8meg widely available the nightmares of the past have been largely forgotten and the internet business world is now experiencing rapid growth as people return to the web in their millions. In 2005 the UK passed the US in terms of per capita penetration of Broadband services, and now 89% of web users in the UK are broadband users, according to BRMB internet monitor.

Increased fierce competition has seen the price of broadband pushed down at the same time as download speeds have dramatically increased. That has enabled a communications revolution, as broad bandwidth allows users to make voice and video calls via their PCs far cheaper than using a traditional land-line.

The minimum recommended bandwidth for smooth video chat is 128kb for both upload and download speeds, but double that is much better. At a dial-up speed of 56kb video calling is just not possible, and even voice-only calls will be pretty poor. Now that almost nine in ten web users in the UK are on broadband at speeds in excess of those minimum speeds they can all take advantage of free voice and video calls on the web.

But it's just not increased bandwidth that has made quality video communications possible on the web. Rapidly improving technology has led to a dramatic increase in webcam quality meaning that they are no longer the preserve of the well-to-do; for example, a professional quality webcam can now be bought for under ?100.

But, to make successful video calls all that is needed is a standard quality webcam costing between ?20 and ?30. It will give crystal clear quality and as most come with a built-in microphone, all you need to do is plug-and-play, then you are ready to make video calls to anyone in the world.

Communications
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