Broadband for business has many more options available than residential broadband. Conventional wisdom is that businesses pay dearly for their high speed Internet. It’s true that some telecom options are more costly, even much more costly than consumer services… for good reasons. But other options are priced in the same ballpark as residential broadband and perfect for certain applications. Let’s take a look at the range of high speed business Internet services available for your location and how to choose.
Business Cable Broadband
At the low end of the price spectrum is cable based broadband Internet. Technically, this is known as DOCSIS 3.0 or D3. Yes, it is delivered on the same coaxial cable that brings in Cable TV. That’s an advantage for certain businesses, like bars and doctor’s waiting rooms. You can get a bundle of broadband and TV, or a “triple play” of broadband, TV and telephone on one line.
Pricing is very attractive because of the huge number of subscribers on the cable. That is also a limitation. You and dozens or hundreds of other users are sharing a pool of bandwidth. When the provider says you get “up to” a certain bandwidth, that is the maximum you’ll see. When lots of other subscribers are online and downloading video or other large files, the line speed for everyone slows down accordingly.
Another reason prices are so low is that cable broadband is not regulated the same way as legacy telecom services. It is considered an “information service” with delivery on a “best effort” basis. Telecom services have SLAs (Service Level Agreements) that spell out performance characteristics and time to response and repair outages.
How do you know if business cable broadband is right for you? For small businesses, especially those who can take advantage of the bundled options, cable is budget friendly. If you have experience with cable broadband at home and are satisfied with the performance and reliability, you’ll likely be happy with the business version as well.
Sometimes you don’t want or need wires at all. 3G and even 4G cellular broadband is available for most business locations. Without the wires, you can be mobile with your smartphone, tablet or laptop computer. A high performance fixed transceiver works great for “pop up” stores or construction sites that only need temporary service.
The limitations of wireless broadband tends to be the limited bandwidth available. Even if you have all the speed you need for your applications, you have a monthly download quota of 5 GB, 10 GB or some number. For things like credit card verification, email and occasional Web access, this may not be a problem. It isn’t a good match for many employees, considerable video downloads or software updates.
Satellite is a fixed wireless service separate from cell towers. It works anywhere you can mount a small dish and have a clear view of the southern sky. Like cellular broadband, satellite is bandwidth limited and not suitable for heavy use. It also suffers from high latency, or time delay, that make it difficult to use for real time applications like VoIP and video conferencing.
T1 is the classic broadband line for businesses. It offers rock solid bandwidth that is equal in both the upload and download directions. Shared bandwidth services, like cable and wireless, offer much higher download that upload speeds. T1 is dedicated to your use and not shared with other companies. It offers low latency and high reliability.
The main limitation of T1 is the bandwidth. It’s 1.5 Mbps. That used to be plenty and still is for smaller applications. You can increase this from 3 to 12 Mbps by adding more T1 lines. This is called “bonded T1.” Each line has a certain cost, so it can get pricey fast.
T1 and bonded T1 offer the professional grade performance you need for nearly everything you want to do, including cloud services and secure point to point connections. It’s also available just about anywhere you can get a conventional telephone line.
DS3 or T3
The legacy upgrade path from T1 is called T3, also known as DS3 (not to be confused with cable D3). Bandwidth increases from 1.5 Mbps to 45 Mbps. That is generally enough for most small to medium size businesses. Like T1, DS3 is highly reliable with low latency, jitter and packet loss. It can be set up as a direct point to point line service as well as Internet access.
The two limitations of DS3 are the relatively high cost compared with other options and availability. The DS3 connection is a pair of coaxial copper cables, but fiber optic lines carry the signal most of the way. That means that fiber needs to be nearby for DS3 to be an option.
Ethernet over Copper
Ethernet over Copper or EoC is a direct competitor to T1. EoC uses the same twisted pair copper wires employed by T1. Multiple pairs are bonded to increase bandwidth. What EoC offers is a direct Ethernet connection to your network plus bandwidth options from 3 to 20 Mbps, even up to 50 or 100 Mbps in some locations.
Ethernet over Copper is widely available and the cost per Mbps tends to be much lower than T1 or DS3. The limitation is that you need to be located near the telco office to get the higher bandwidths. Unlike T1, EoC bandwidth rapidly decreases with distance. However, when available, Ethernet over Copper is an excellent choice for business broadband.
Ethernet over Fiber
Like EoC, EoF or Ethernet over Fiber gives you a high performance broadband service at an excellent price. As you might guess, moving from copper to fiber makes higher bandwidths available. Ethernet over Fiber bandwidth options start at 10 Mbps and go up to 100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps and 10 Gbps. In some locations you can now get 100 Gbps bandwidth if you need this service level.
Fiber has the advantage of being “future proof.” Once installed, chances are that you’ll never need further line construction. Ethernet (as opposed to legacy SONET fiber) is highly scalable. That means you can start off paying for the bandwidth you need today and then upgrade to higher levels with a simple phone call to your provider. Usually no equipment changes will be needed and you can get the increase immediately or within a short time frame compared to upgrading other services.
What broadband option is best for your business? It comes down to cost vs performance along with availability. Get the complete picture on the options for your location with competitive quotes for high speed business Internet services.