You may think that your business has one or two options when it comes to bandwidth connectivity. If fact, you may have a baker’s dozen or more different technology options to choose from and multiple vendors for each. Of course, the closer you are located to a major business district, the more variety of services and providers you’ll have to pick from. Even so, there are often at least a few options available even out in the boonies. Let’s take a look at at thirteen hot business broadband options you should know about.
1. DSL - Digital Subscriber Line is a broadband service that is delivered over regular telephone lines. It may share a line with a phone or have a line all to itself for more bandwidth. Bandwidth starts at under a Mbps and goes up around 7 Mbps, depending on how far you are from the telco office. Both asymmetrical and symmetrical options are available.
2. Business Cable Broadband - This is very similar to residential cable broadband but designed to serve businesses locations. You often get static IP addresses and more responsive customer service. Bandwidths can range from around 5 Mbps on up to over 100 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. You can get just broadband, or a combination of broadband, telephone and television service. Once catch is that the cable has to pass by your location for you to be connected.
3. Fixed 3G and 4G Wireless - This is cellular broadband designed to support business applications. Specialized equipment gives you highly reliable signal. Since it uses cell tower signals, you can get service out in the country pretty much anywhere you can get cell phone service. This option is especially popular for credit card verification in temporary retail locations and construction job sites. Bandwidths are similar to a T1 line (1.5 Mbps) for 3G service and Cable broadband (10 Mbps) for 4G.
4. Satellite - Two way satellite transmission is popular with retail stores and any remote locations. Bandwidth has been similar to 3G, but is now available at 4G levels. You put a dish on the roof and you have broadband virtually anywhere. One limitation is that heavy rain and snow can interrupt service.
Note that these first 4 bandwidth options are the lowest cost you can find, but have some important limitations. They are shared bandwidth, which means your speed will vary depending on what other users are doing. Both satellite and fixed wireless have monthly download limits. Most are asymmetrical, which means that download speed may be 10x upload speed. This works well for typical Internet access, which is what they are designed for. Geosynchronous satellite has high latency (time delay) that makes it unsuitable for real time applications like VoIP. Service reliability and speed of repair typically fall short of what you get with dedicated telecom services.
5. T1 Lines and Bonded T1 - T1 has been the workhorse of business connectivity. The bandwidth is limited to 1.5 Mbps, now too low for many applications. Bonding T1 lines together can create a larger pipe up to 10 Mbps. Available just about anywhere you can get landline telephone service. Popular as a point to point service, Internet access or PBX telephone trunking.
6. Ethernet over Copper - The new competitor to T1. Uses the same telco lines as bonded T1, but a different transmission technology. Bandwidths range from 3 to 50 Mbps typically, with some installations capable of 100 Mbps or more. The tradeoff is distance. Bandwidth drops off as you get farther away from the telco office. Cost is usually lower than bonded T1, sometimes half as much. Can be point to point, point to multipoint or Internet access.
7. DS3 - A hybrid between fiber and copper. The service is delivered to the curb over fiber optic line but then connected via coaxial cable. Runs at 45 Mbps. This is a well established service that is available in many locations, but losing out to less expensive Ethernet copper and fiber services in many areas. Can be point to point or Internet access.
8. OC3, OC12, OC48 - These are traditional fiber optic services using SONET technology developed by the telephone companies. OC3 is entry level at 155 Mbps. OC12 takes you up to 622 Mbps. OC48 is 2.4 Gbps for businesses needing very high bandwidth. SONET is well established and available from multiple vendors within metro areas. Not generally available in rural areas. Point to point or Internet access.
9. Ethernet over Fiber - Like Ethernet over Copper, fiber is taking over from T1 lines and even DS3, this is the new competing service to SONET. Bandwidth is highly scalable between 10 Mbps and 10 Gbps, with 100 Mbps and 1000 Mbps as popular service levels. Cost is generally lower than SONET and making changes is easier and faster. Also, EoF supports Ethernet services like E-Line and E-LAN. Can be point to point, point to multipoint or Internet access.
10. Microwave FIxed Wireless - Like 3G cellular, no landlines or fiber are needed. This is strictly a point to point wireless connection using licensed microwave band frequencies. Limited to line of sight from provider to an outside antenna on your building. High bandwidths of 100 Mbps are available, but generally only downtown in major metropolitan areas.
11. Wavelength Service - Gives you a dedicated “color” or independent channel on the laser beam. Bandwidth is typically 2.5, 5 or 10 Gbps. You can choose the protocol you want to run, including IP and TDM. Bandwidths of 40 and 100 Gbps are now becoming available for very demanding applications.
12. Dark Fiber - Have all the wavelengths to yourself when you lease an unlit fiber strand between two locations. The ultimate in bandwidth and flexibility, but you have to provide and maintain the terminal equipment on each end. For the most sophisticated users only.
13. MPLS Networks - Not an access service, but rather a way to connect many business locations in a regional, national or international area. Think of MPLS as a private version of the Internet. You have guaranteed bandwidth with class of service. Also, high security because there is no public access.
Note that all of the services from #5 on are considered professional telecom services that often come with service level agreements that guarantee performance. Bandwidth is dedicated, not shared, and symmetrical. If performance is more important than bargain basement pricing, these are the services you should be considering. If your needs are modest and you just want a connection to the Internet for email and Web access, then lower end options may well meet your needs.
Not sure how to choose the best bandwidth for your operation or how to find vendors for all these services? Get fast quotes on multiple bandwidth technology services for your business locations, plus recommendations from a bandwidth product specialist.