1. Broadband Connection Services

Broadband connection services represent a significant enhancement to the network connections previously available via dial-up services using traditional modems.

The term broadband covers a variety of technologies whose benefits include:

  • Faster connection speeds.
  • "Always-on" availability with no dialling required.
  • Simultaneous use of data and voice connections.
  • Simultaneous connection of multiple computers (may require additional equipment).
  • Fixed monthly subscription charges (although some subscriptions may limit the volume of data you can download per month).

The two main broadband systems currently in use for domestic users are:

  • ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) which uses standard telephone lines in conjunction with an ADSL modem. The system is "asymmetric" because the data transfer rates are higher for information being downloaded than for that being uploaded.
  • Cable modem which connects a computer to a cable TV network and is therefore limited to those having such a connection available in their locality.

2. Multiple Users

If you want several computers to have simultaneous access to your broadband connection, you will need a router. A router is a small box which plugs into your broadband connection. Other computers (usually up to 4 or 8) then plug into the router, either directly via a USB or ethernet cable, or via a wireless connection (see next section). Some broadband service providers offer a router as a standard installation option if you pay an extra cost. Alternatively, you can buy your own router and plug it into an existing broadband connection (subject to the terms and conditions of your agreement). Note that a router connecting to an ADSL service needs to include its own ADSL modem interface. Some routers also include a firewall to provide extra security protection.

3. Wireless Connections

For wireless connection to broadband, your computer needs to have a wirless interface adapter fitted, either built-in or installed as an add-on, for example via a USB connector. You also need a wireless base station which will usually also act as a router to allow connections from multiple users.

Wireless connections raise additional security issues, for example in preventing unauthorised persons in the vicinity from using your connection. Most wireless routers will have facilities to restrict who accesses them and some configuration of this will be needed as part of your installation of the equipment.

4. Setting up a Broadband Connection

OUCS does not operate a broadband service. To set up a broadband connection, you need to take out a service subscription with one of the commercial broadband service providers. One student comparison site which provides OfCom accredited information is http://www.cable.co.uk/compare/student-broadband/. The same website also provided a student broadband advice guide which maybe of interest. Other sites with similar information include Choose.net and Broadband Genie. Please note we do not endorse these sites and links are provided for information only.

The service provider will usually provide the broadband modem device and software that is required to connect to their service, but you can usually choose to provide your own hardware if you particularly wish to do this.

The cost of a broadband subscription will be determined by the maximum connection speed and the volume of material you wish to download/upload each month. Most service providers will give guidelines on how to calculate a typical month's traffic for your anticipated pattern of usage.

5. Accessing Oxford University Services via Broadband

Once you are connected to a broadband service, you can use most of Oxford University's network services in exactly the same way as you would via any other form of connection.

There are, however, two areas where additional steps may be needed:

  • Outgoing Email - email clients on the Oxford network normally have their SMTP outgoing mail server set to smtp.ox.ac.uk. With broadband, you need EITHER:
    • to update your configuration, if necessary, to use the University's authenticated SMTP service - the details are included in the OUCS email configuration web pages , OR
    • to use the SMTP server specified by your internet service provider.
  • Restricted Resources - some resources are restricted to clients having an Oxford University network address. If you try and access them from elsewhere you may get an error message or be prompted for a username and password.

    A solution is to use the OUCS VPN service. in conjunction with your broadband connection, to make it appear that you have an Oxford University network address. Using the VPN service involves registering (from on-campus connection) for an OUCS Remote Access Account via our self registration pages, and then installing the VPN client software (downloadable from anywhere) via the web page at https://register.it.ox.ac.uk/oxonly/downloads/vpn/. Please note that you do not normally need VPN to access library resources such as electronic journal and subscription databases (see library information on remote access for details).

6. Problems using Broadband

Broadband technology is still a new and evolving area. Because the connection is via a commercial service provider and, in most cases, using a modem and software provided by them, they will necessarily need to be the main source of technical support in resolving connection problems.

Some specific problems:

  • No connection at all. Check that your modem/router is connected and switched on. If you cannot access any webpages or email, contact your broadband provider.
  • Upload speed is very slow. Both ADSL and cable-modem based services deliberately offer much faster download speeds than upload speeds - this is based on the fact that most people do a lot more downloading than uploading. Upload speeds can be as little as 64 kbit/sec - little faster than a conventional modem.
  • Web page access errors when using VPN. Telnet access is also affected. If you have firewall software on your machine (which may have been included as part of the broadband software) it may need additional configuration of its settings to deal with this.