Monday, August 19, 2013

Business Broadband Options in Rural Areas

By: John Shepler

Companies lucky enough to be located at the heart of metropolitan business districts are in an enviable position when it comes to broadband Internet access. There are multitude of service providers that can connect you via cable, twisted pair copper, fiber or wireless links. Out in the country… not so much.

Broadband options are available in even the most far flung rural areas.Businesses located in rural areas may feel starved for connectivity. Unlike their city counterparts, they don’t have service providers fawning over them with competitive offers. That doesn’t mean that there are no broadband options. Only that the low population density makes marketing to the rural markets less compelling than in cities with commercial customers every few steps down the block.

Now you don’t have to depend on sales people from telecom carriers finding you in out of the way places. You can have instant access to a myriad of bandwidth services that will connect to your business location, regardless of where you are. The options vary, of course, by location. So let’s take a look of what probably is and is not available to you away from metro areas.

Two services that are hard to come by beyond the city limits are cable and fiber. Business cable piggybacks on the cable television systems licensed by each community. This is a high density business that needs customers every hundred feet or so in order to be profitable. Business cable broadband works just like the consumer version. It offers fairly high asymmetrical shared bandwidth at a lower monthly fee than just about anything else. Unfortunately, the infrastructure doesn’t extend much beyond subdivisions on the edge of town. If your business is located near a growing retail and residential area, the cable may now pass your location and give you access to broadband as well as television and telephone service via cable.

Fiber is also a metro service, although that is changing a bit. Fiber optic connections are inherently high capacity and insensitive to distance. Most of the fiber terminates at telecom offices in town. Yes, fiber runs right next to railroad tracks and country roads, but it keeps going to the next town. Without a place to connect, you can’t get access.

What’s changing is that fiber is being run now to cellular towers in support of 4G LTE wireless broadband. This backhaul connectivity has traditionally been handled by T1 lines. 4G speeds and volume are so high that T1s have hit their limits. Fiber to the tower is expanding rapidly. That means that if you are close to where the fiber is being dropped off, it may be practical to run a drop to your business. If so, you’ll have all the bandwidth you can possible use for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of T1, it’s the long distance capability of T1 line service that made it attractive for remotely located cell towers in the first place. The technology was designed to connect over a wide area from the central office and is available just about anywhere you can get landline phone service. The cost of T1 lines has been falling rapidly, even in rural areas. That means a service that was unaffordable a few years ago can make sense now. You should also know that T1 lines can be bonded to make higher capacity circuits. These range from 3 Mbps on up to 10 or 12 Mbps.

Ethernet over Copper service isn’t often available out of town, although Ethernet can also be carried on T1 lines. This is called Ethernet over DS1 or EoDS1. It offers the advantage of being able to support Ethernet services like E-Line and E-LAN and is often lower in cost than equivalent T1 and bonded T1 services.

One way to get around the lack of wiring to rural areas is to bypass the wires completely. Wireless broadband in the form of 3G and 4G cellular are readily available in country locations. Special business grades of cellular broadband are available that are highly reliable and can drive your network directly. The cost is very attractive. It’s on the order of cable broadband if it was available.

If you can’t get cellular broadband because of too few bars of signal, consider satellite. Satellite broadband has improved greatly and now offers 4G bandwidths at a reasonable cost. Satellite doesn’t work well for VoIP or video conferencing because of the long time delays or latency caused by having to send the signal tens of thousands of miles up and down to the satellite in geostationary orbit. It may work just fine, though, for web access, email and even credit card verification. Satellite signals penetrate where other broadband doesn’t reach since they come from above. They require only a clear view of the southern sky and electrical power to run the satellite receiver.

Is your rural business hurting because you are stuck with dial-up Internet or no access at all? Do you have broadband now but want to see what other options are available? Learn what broadband services and pricing are available for your business location now.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

Note: Photo of country road courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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