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What is Bandwidth and how does it affect Business Internet?

A Bandwidth Primer

  • What is Bandwidth?

    Bandwidth is as it sounds - the width or capacity of the ‘pipe’ through which data transfers in and out of the Internet. Business Internet Service Providers (ISPs) own high-capacity connections to the Internet provisioned across different technologies. The ISP then rents out little ‘pipes’ of that connection to business subscribers. When a customer interacts with a cloud based application like Salesforce or Netsuite, or makes a phone call over a cloud based phone system like hosted pbx - the data travels very quickly from wherever it is stored - across that bandwidth pipe rented to you by your ISP - to your computer, tablet or phone and back. The speed at which that data arrives at its destination depends on available bandwidth. If we think of the Internet as a giant tank of water, imagine the difference between draining it with a narrow hose or a big fat pipe. The fat pipe is wider, has more band-width than the narrow hose, so a lot more can flow through at one time.

    Ultimately, all that is meant by the term bandwidth is how much data can pass through the pipe at a given time.

  • Different Internet Technologies Offer Different Bandwidth

    All high speed Internet technologies are referred to by the blanket term ‘Broadband’. When we say ‘Broadband’ we could mean cable, fiber-optic, ethernet over copper, fixed wireless, LTE etc. Each of these technologies are available with different rates of bandwidth. We’ll get into the pros and cons and how much soon, but generally, the lower the price the higher the likelihood the Internet is shared with other businesses. As you’ll see, this can affect bandwidth reliability and often, for security and other reasons, a business must have a Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) line. DIA means your Internet is delivered with a guaranteed level of bandwidth for your business that is not shared with any other ISP subscriber.

  • How is Bandwidth Measured?

    Bandwidth is measured in bits per second. Significant advances have catapulted us forward to Gigabit (GB) speeds. One GB (or Gig) equals 1000 Mbps, which is a staggering speed to anyone who remembers the early days of the Internet.

  • What is a Bandwidth Bottleneck?

    Real world communications pass through a succession of linked ‘pipes’, each with its own bandwidth. If one of these is much slower or congested than the rest, you have yourself a bandwidth bottleneck.

  • Which Internet Offers The Best Bandwidth?

    Different Internet technologies promise different bandwidth rates, often advertised as best case or ‘best effort’, meaning the highest possible amount of data a user can transfer each second. Each is described below:

  • Business Broadband

    Again, it’s important to stress that ‘Broadband’ is not an individual Internet technology unto itself, rather a blanket term used to describe the collective high speed Internet technologies that provide consistent uninterrupted connection. An example of an interrupted connection is dial-up - which needs an action from the user to connect for each use - therefore, it is not considered to be ‘broadband’.

  • Business Cable Internet

    Business Cable Internet connections are commonly advertised in the 100 to 500 Mbps range. That number usually refers to download speed. Upload speeds are significantly lower. Whenever there is a difference in upload and download rates we refer to it as ‘asymmetrical’. A business can purchase ‘symmetrical’ Internet service - meaning up and down speed will be the same. It will cost more however. Business Cable Internet is usually ‘shared’ with the ISP’s other customers. Since it also travels across TV cable lines this can result in bandwidth rates ‘slowing down’ at peak times. For more information on Latency, you can read our quick guide here.

  • Business Fiber-Optic Internet

    Business Fiber-Optic Internet (Fiber) can deliver fantastically high bandwidth rates up to and beyond 10 Gigabits Per Second. Even at the lower, more common bandwidth rate plan of 1GB, Fiber beats Cable Internet, hands down. Unfortunately the technology is not available everywhere. Yet. Fiber-optic Internet is sought after because even with heavy usage it maintains a consistently high speed - the bandwidth rates sustain and deliver as advertised. Fiber doesn’t travel by electrical signals like traditional coaxial copper cable networks. Fiber travels in the form of flashes of light via glass fiber cables. Those fiber-optic cables ONLY transfer Internet data unlike traditional cable which runs over TV cable networks with that risk of congestion at peak times. Business Fiber Internet can be installed as Dedicated Internet Access (DIA), meaning it is NOT shared with other subscribers. DIA is a point-to-point private data connection between your company and the Internet, which eliminates latency or congestion and delivers a guaranteed rate of bandwidth.

  • Fixed Wireless Business Internet

    Fixed Wireless Business Internet can reach speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (1 GB) but the service is more commonly offered at lower rates up to 400 Mbps. Even though those speeds sound low compared to Fiber, the service is usually symmetrical, meaning upload and download speeds are the same. Fixed Wireless has particular value in areas where typical Internet service options are unavailable and it is a desirable alternative to Satellite Internet when that’s the only other choice around. Fixed Wireless Internet does not travel over phone or cable lines. It is sent to receivers installed at your business location by airwaves from the nearest cell tower. The downside is that Fixed Wireless Internet must have a line of sight connection with the access point or it won’t work. Tierzero can usually validate your site for Fixed Wireless in 24-48 hours, assuming a third party engineering review is not mandated.

  • 4G LTE Internet

    Business LTE is generally advertised at far lower bandwidth rates of 10 Mbps up to 50Mbps - and since that’s asymmetrical, upload rates will be even lower. When you shop for LTE, providers usually advertise Gigabyte data allowance not bandwidth speeds - and not terrifically high amounts of data either. So why would any business consider using LTE for Business Internet service? For some very good reasons, actually. Business LTE is an excellent option for anyone seeking a temporary Internet solution - like construction sites, or film productions, or a business moving to a new location that needs to set up fast while their permanent circuit is built out. The key in such cases is to find a short term commitment, (which Tierzero LTE offers). Business LTE is also an excellent, affordable backup for any business in case a permanent circuit fails. For a fairly low monthly cost you can and should consider LTE as a secondary Internet for your business. It guarantees you will NEVER lose phone or Internet service and that has real value in these days of climate uncertainty.

Tierzero is a Dedicated Internet Access provider using multiple technologies including T1, T3, Ethernet Over Copper, Fiber-Optic and Fixed Wireless. Our network engineers have considerable experience meshing multiple different technologies including ‘Shared Internet’ to optimize cost and performance for our Business Phone and Internet clients. You may reach out to us at (800) 504-0000 with any questions, or email Mike DuBrin, our Chief Technology Officer at mike.dubrin@tierzero.com if you’d like advice about your network.

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