A dial-up connection is a connection from an end user to an Internet service provider (ISP) that can be created over a conventional telephone line without any special arrangement with the telecommunications carrier.
This contrast with broadband connections, which feature substantially higher data speeds but require special arrangement with the carrier. Broadband includes DSL (digital subscriber line) and cable. The former operates over conventional telephone lines, but requires the user to be within a certain distance from the local telephone exchange branch. The latter operates over the coaxial cable network that is used to distribute cable television broadcasting.
The maximum downstream (i.e., reception) speed for dial-up connections is 56Kbps (kilobits per second), which is attainable using V.90 and V.92 modems. This contrasts with DSL which typically has a maximum of 1.5Mbps and cable which can reach at least 6Mbps downstream and 768Kbps upstream.
Despite its substantially slower speeds than broadband, dial-up has several advantages. One is that it is usually considerably cheaper. Another is that it is available wherever a convention voice telephone line is available, whereas broadband is generally available only in urbanized areas.
In addition, it can be more secure than broadband. This is because it is both much slower and not an always on service, in contrast to broadband. Thus, it is more difficult for intruders to locate and a much less tempting target for them to utilize for malicious purposes, such as relaying spam.
Although dial-up is an older technology and is rapidly being replaced by broadband in some countries, it is still in widespread use and will likely continue to be so for years to come because of the cost of extending broadband to rural areas, particularly in lower income countries.
Created November 30, 2005.