Well first your ISP should have given you an upstream and a downsteam speed. With the bigger numer being the best speed that you can download with and the smaller number being the speed with which you can upload with.
I would use the tool linked below to see what your connection speeds are, if you have any doubts. This will show you how close your connection speed comes to what the ISP says it should be.
Now as for the modems. First a modem simply modulates and demodulates (converts) a signal as it crosses between two media types that use different signals to transmit data. THe phone network use an analog signal (tones or sound waves converted to an electric signal) while the ethernet network uses a digtal signal (electric pulses on the wire which represent ones and zeros). So a phone modem coverts between the two.
A Cable modem acts like the "box" which connects your TV to a cable company's network. In other words it is setup to transmit data on a "channel" the cable company has setup to transmit data to the internet, where your TV's cable box can see all the cable channels the cable modem only uses the one set aside for it by the cable company (all ISP in a region, North America for example, use the same standard channel for this type of connection). Now your ISP uses a diffrent signal on a coax cable (TDMA/TDM) then the one on your ethernet network (802.3) or USB connection (NRZI). A cable modem job is to covert one signal to another and then transmit it on the proper cable "channel".
This is really a simply way of explaining it without going into the technical details of how cable networks work
Hope this helps
Last edited by Ghost_Hacker; 08-07-2007 at 08:57 AM.
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