This tour of various Internet connection methods has been brief, and I have tended to stick to technical points without really making comparisons between the technologies. This is because it would not be comparing like with like. Which communication technology that you choose will depend very much on your circumstances.

56K modems are very cheap (maybe £30 after shopping around), but slow. Since the modem is so ubquitous, almost nothing needs to be said about it – ISPs offering free Internet access are two a penny these days, leaving just the telephone charges to be paid (in the UK, at least). So the major revolution will occur in broadband technologies such as DSL.

I think that ISDN will be used as a stop-gap measure over the short term period before DSL becomes more universal. DSL has several advantages over ISDN, principally one of speed. ISDN isn't going to go away. Just as many consumers will choose to stick with modems in the short to medium term, I think that many businesses will choose to stick with ISDN since it is a mature technology that is well understood. However, I believe that ultimately, ISDN will be phased out in favour of DSL or CATV access.

DSL and cable modem access is still in fairly early stages and is being slow to catch on. The UK's cable network is not as advanced as that of the US, making it more difficult to access the Internet via cable modems, but as more companies enter this arena, this will change. Currently, there are companies offering Internet access via cable modem for a flat fee of about £20/month – about half the cost of ADSL, at comparable data rates. However, this situation may change once the local loop is "unbundled", i.e. BT's monopoly over access to the local loop is lifted in summer 2001.

I don't think that mobile comms will be heavily used by consumers who do not generally need mobile network access, but it will be a boon to business people and frequent travellers who will be able to connect to the Internet (with a bearable data rate!) whilst on the move or accessing the office network from home.
I also think that ISPs and companies really don't know what to do with mobile Internet access yet. This has been shown by the apparent failure of WAP in the UK, with complaints of speed and difficulty of use.

However, over time, as the technology develops and becomes more mature, new applications will develop, perhaps integrating different methods of network access that have been discussed in this site, applications that we can't even conceive of at the moment. The last mile is getting shorter and shorter all the time.

Introduction - Modems - ISDN - DSL - cable modems - Mobile comms - Conclusion - Glossary