It’s trendy to say that bandwidth is a utility, just like gas, electric and water. It should be that way and someday it will. Unfortunately, that day is not today. You can be pretty sure that any office building you’ll consider will have hookups for electricity, water, sewer and likely natural gas. It will also be wired for multi-line telephone service. This is the reason bandwidth is so easily forgotten. Telephone service is a given. Shouldn’t other telecom services be assumed available?
Fiber optic connections are definitely not a given. You’ll be lucky to find one in four buildings on-net with a fiber carrier. On-net means that a particular carrier has already brought fiber into the building and activated it on their network. Far more likely that the building you are looking at will be off-net, especially for your favorite service provider.
It’s not necessarily the end of the world if your building is off-net. In many cases, fiber optic service is nearby and it’s only a short construction run to bring it in. Who is going to pay for that? If you are a big enough user and willing to commit to a long term contract, one or more carriers might just eat the construction costs themselves to get your business. If you are a small operator, you’ll be presented with the option of paying for the construction yourself or going with another option.
What other options are available? Copper-based services are getting faster and faster. Bonded T1 lines can take you to 12 Mbps or so. Ethernet over Copper can extend that to 15, 20 or 30 Mbps. You may be close enough to a provider’s facilities that you can get even higher speeds of 50 or 100 Mbps. The nice thing about copper is that it is already installed. Yes, that multi-line telephone cable contains extra twisted copper pairs that can be used for bonded T1 or Ethernet over Copper service.
A copper service not normally considered is HFC or Hybrid Fiber Coax. This is a bandwidth service provided over the infrastructure of the Cable TV companies. Cable operators have extensive fiber optic backbones and the ability to deliver bandwidth up to 100 Mbps or so over coaxial drops from their fiber runs. This is often fairly inexpensive compared to other solutions, so long as you can use asymmetrical shared bandwidth that fluctuates in speed. For general web access, email, and the like, HFC bandwidth is a great solution for many businesses.
Another option is fixed wireless. Your building needs to be within line of site of your service provider. They install an antenna and radio set on your roof and run that to your offices. It’s possible to get up to 1 Gbps using fixed wireless, if that service is available for your location.
If you are anticipating needing bandwidths of 1 Gbps, 10 Gbps or higher, it is far better to make sure that your building is on-net or can be made so at a reasonable cost before you sign any leases. You can do that by running a search for fiber lit buildings using the GeoQuote online tool. Just enter the address of the building you have in mind and you’ll get a map showing fiber availability and the distances to buildings where fiber optic service is present. From there, it is an easy matter to request competitive price quotes that include construction costs, if any. Copper, HFC and fixed wireless quotes will also be provided upon request.