Thursday, May 25, 2023

Bandwidth Without Usage Metering

By: John Shepler

Perhaps the most unpleasant experience of broadband is hitting your data cap. You may have forgotten it was even there. But, like the cop hiding behind the highway billboard, it pops out at the most inconvenient times and, boy, are you in trouble. Let’s have a look at what data limits are all about and what you can do to avoid hitting them.

Avoid data usage limits with dedicated Internet access and private lines.Where Did Usage Metering Come From?
The big problem is scarcity. Bandwidth is like electricity. If we had unlimited amounts at minimal costs, there would be no need to meter it or even limit your line speed. Such is not the case.

Take 5G cellular for instance. The demand for Internet broadband has always been way ahead of capacity buildout for the cellular networks. 2G was pitiful. 3G was still bandwidth starved. 4G LTE greatly improved on cellular capacity to the point that most people didn’t run out before the end of the month.

5G offers the promise of billions of “things” all communicating autonomously and people using fixed wireless from their cellular provider to replace services like DSL, cable and T1 lines.

Have you been watching what is happing with 5G? There is a mad scramble to build towers, feed them with fiber optic cables or microwave backhaul, and lobby the government to assign more and more of the limited radio spectrum to high speed Internet. It’s cellular vs satellite vs independent WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Providers) vs television vs government vs everybody else to grab as much bandwidth as possible.

Why? The amount of spectrum you can press into service determines the speed of your connection and the amount of data to divvy up among users. Thus the feeding frenzy among service providers.

Even wireline and fiber optic services have their limits. Twisted pair landlines are pretty pokey by today’s standards and fiber optic requires a huge capital investment. A fiber bundle has enormous capacity, but only where the fiber has been run. It doesn’t blanket an area like wireless does. Each location needs its own fiber connection.

How Carriers Allot Their Capacity
All bandwidth services have limited capacity. Wireless has the most constraints because the electromagnetic spectrum has only so much available in the popular frequencies that travel reasonable distances and penetrate walls. Fiber and HFC (Hybrid Fiber Cable) is less constrained but has high costs to build out.

Carriers divvy up their capacity and sell it to users by slicing and dicing what they have. The two limitations that they put on users are speed in Mbps or Gbps and usage in total Gigabytes. Speed determines how much of the total bandwidth you can use at any given moment. Total capacity limits keep a few high data users from uploading and downloading continuously so that other’s can’t get online.

You see, the price you pay for Internet access is much less if the carrier can assume that you aren’t sending or receiving all the time. Much of the time you may not even be accessing remote servers. When you do, you’ll send or receive a certain bundle of data and then pause before doing more. By allowing many customers to share one big line, providers can give everyone reliable access at greatly reduced cost. That’s the principle behind cable broadband, satellite services, and cellular broadband.

In practice, this works well for consumers and many smaller businesses. They just don’t need to be sending enormous files one right after the other. On cable, you may never hit your allotted limit or even know what it is. With cellular and satellite, you may have and “unlimited” plan, but just try continuously streaming video or doing massive data transfers and you’ll run into what the carriers call “fair use” provisions. Yes, there are limits to unlimited plans.

What happens if you consume more that your “fair share”? Your service provider may choose to simply issue a warning, or may slow your speed so you can’t hog so much of their capacity. Or they may charge you for extra GBs of usage. Worst case, they’ll simply cut off your service until the next month’s billing cycle begins.

How to Avoid Usage Metering
Medium and larger businesses and heavy Internet using companies with cloud services and remote backup storage may well exceed even the most generous fair use quotas. The best option then is to order services that aren’t metered at all. Those tend to be private lines and dedicated Internet access.

Dedicated lines without usage metering give you two advantages. First, you are not sharing with other companies or residential users. The capacity of the channel is yours and yours alone. If you order a Gigabit Dedicated Internet Access fiber service, you can feed it traffic continuously and nobody is going to complain. Plus the speed of your service won’t vary with competing traffic, because you have sole usage. This is particularly valuable with business critical applications and real-time services like video conferencing that run in the cloud.

A private line is like dedicated access except that the Internet is never involved. You connect point to point or in a private mesh network where others cannot interfere. Even the core Internet gets congested from time to time. Your private lines are like private superhighways. Your traffic, and yours alone, is what is carried. If you are using cloud services extensively, consider a direct line from your business to your cloud provider for the highest performance.

Have you been hitting the limits of your Internet service or being warned by your provider that they may heavily up-charge you or cut off access? Consider the advantages of ordering dedicated private lines and dedicated Internet access without usage limits to keep your business running smoothly.

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

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