Does Your Business Have Enough Bandwidth? Part III: Delivery Methods

Written by Kristi Salmon on October 24, 2017.

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The internet is the lifeblood of a business, enabling e-commerce, online research, customer interaction, data flow, sharing of files and much more. Connectivity fuels all of these operations and there are many technology delivery methods.  But which technology is most superior, and more importantly, which method is going to drive business growth and allow you to venture into advanced platforms that can really sustain your business?  We’ll unpack many internet delivery services and highlight the benefits that will serve your business best.

Unfortunately, it’s quite common to see businesses with insufficient internet connectivity. As we’ve discussed earlier in this series, knowing what’s appropriate can be difficult and in some instances businesses may feel their data service is latent when, in fact, they simply don’t have enough bandwidth to power their day to day operations and are simply maxing out their connection.  How much bandwidth you need depends on what you are doing, and how many people are doing it.  Below is a crash course on the various types of internet bandwidth delivery methods used today.

  • DSL - DSL may transmit data, but it is based on a technology developed for voice: traditional twisted pair copper wires. Twisted-pair was a breakthrough when it was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1881, eliminating crosstalk and other interference from telephone calls. More than a century later, phone companies developed the means to send data over those same wires. Voice and data could travel simultaneously over a single cabling infrastructure, with the data traveling at a different frequency. Since telephone companies had already deployed huge networks of twisted-pair cabling, they naturally became the prime providers of DSL service.

Problems: Available speeds are below the 50 Mbps threshold. The delivery method requires a shorter distance so data transfer is impacted by subscriber distance from the company’s central office. Therefore, performance degrades markedly and may not be available at all. Distance and peak usage hours on the network will affect service, so consistency will be an issue. DSL is limited in rural areas, so availability and high costs could be an issue as well.

  • Cable - Cable high-speed internet, on the other hand, was developed specifically to transmit data. Its breakthrough is far more recent, occurring in the late 1990s when the first version of DOCSIS – the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification – emerged. DOCSIS is a global standard that enables the addition of high-speed data transfer to the existing hybrid fiber-coaxial infrastructure used by cable providers. The most recent version of the standard – DOCSIS 3.0 – supports the simultaneous delivery of video, voice, and data at speeds that already meet the 100 Mbps threshold.

Benefits: High-speed cable is not only able to deliver that 50 Mbps benchmark, but has gone far beyond it. Leveraging DOCSIS 3.0, top-tier cable providers are providing 100 Mbps service today, and speeds reaching 250 Mbps are expected in the near future. High-speed cable is not distance sensitive.  Cable-based services have delivered 102 percent of advertised speeds. High-speed cable internet doesn’t degrade over distance and runs over the same infrastructure that brings cable TV to both densely and sparsely populated areas; it is available to a far wider customer base; in cities and rural areas alike. 

Cable’s roadmap is ambitious and far-reaching, intended to take speed and reach well beyond what next-generation DSL will offer – the forthcoming DOCSIS 3.1 – is expected to turbocharge bandwidth even more, bringing speeds of 500 Mbps to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) to a coverage area far and wide. 

  • T1 - The T1 (or T-1) carrier is a common use of digital transmission service in the United States. It consists of 24 separate channels or "time slots," each 64 Kbps using pulse code modulation (PCM) signals with time-division multiplexing (TDM) at an overall rate of 1.544 million bits per second (Mbps). T1 lines originally used copper wire but now also include optical and wireless media.

Problems:  To achieve any real level of high capacity broadband, users have to purchase multiple T1s which, in the end, can be extremely cost extensive. 

  • Fiber - Fiber optic technology converts electrical signals carrying data to light and sends the light through transparent glass fibers about the diameter of a human hair. Fiber transmits data at high speeds. The same fiber providing your broadband can also simultaneously deliver voice (VoIP) and video services, including video-on-demand. Fiber-optic connectivity can lend a great advantage to companies of all sizes, particularly organizations who use the cloud for apps or data storage or those that have multiple locations who need to access server data simultaneously and in real time. Your business can benefit from fewer delays in accessing applications, cloud-services, and other platforms.

The fiber-optic path to the internet is many times faster than even the highest-speed copper internet connections. During periods of high demand for internet access,  your business should not notice the internet slowing down. With Mediacom Business’ Gigabit+ Fiber Solutions, businesses can experience high-capacity broadband at speeds from 1 Gig to 10 Gig+ that outperform DSL and T1 delivery methods. Think of it as a business’ own private lane on the highway of broadband.

Benefits: Signal strength does not degrade as quickly over distance. Bandwidth availability is significantly higher, and speed does not decrease as high demands are put on the network. Fiber-optic internet eliminates many latency issues as it is extremely reliable and robust. It is secure, as the only way to penetrate fiber-optic internet is to physically cut the fibers, which will cause the signal to disappear. Fiber-optic internet increases your company's protection against cybercrime, is resistant to interference and is a major cost save since productivity issues attributed to slow or unreliable internet disappear with fiber. Cloud access, from customer relationship management (CRM) tools to data storage, is an important business tool for apps, hosting, and more. 82% of organizations are now using the cloud in some capacity. The speed and bandwidth capabilities of fiber internet mean faster access to your data and applications stored in the cloud.  The delivery method is also scalable and bandwidth changes are easy to turn-up as needs change.

Research by Sandisk indicates that slow internet connections cost employees "one week per year of productivity." While the time your teams spend waiting on slow internet can seem minor, it adds up significantly over time. Your internet connectivity should never inhibit productivity. It should be a tool that supports your employees' desire to work productively.

Below is a chart of the most common internet technologies:

Technology Physical Medium Speed
Fiber optical fiber 100 Mbps to 1000 Mbps
Cable coax cable 512 Kbps to 100 Mbps
DSL/ADSL twisted pair phone line 128 Kbps to 8 Mbps
T1 twisted pair, coax or optical fiber 1.544 Mbps
Dial-up regular phone line

2400 bps to 56 Kbps


Internet Speeds

Internet speeds are measured in Mbps, or megabits per second. These are related to but different than megabytes, a file size measurement which you are probably familiar with. A bit is 1/8th of a Byte, therefore if you have a 1 Mbps connection, it will take (in theory) 8 seconds to transfer a 1 MB file. This measurement refers to the speed as well as the bandwidth.  Think of it as a multi-lane highway, in which you can only go so fast, and the easiest way to get more stuff from one place to another is to add more lanes. That is essentially what increasing your bandwidth does.

A decade ago, most small- and medium-size businesses could get by with an internet connection of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps). But with today’s usage, the benchmark is closer to 50 Mbps – and very soon, it will reach 100 Mbps. Businesses that don’t have that kind of bandwidth will find themselves unable to fully leverage trends like the cloud and remote access. And to be sure, if they don’t, the competition will. Spending on public IT cloud services – including applications, servers, and storage – is expected to grow from $47.4 billion in 2013 to more than $107 billion in 2017, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). Not surprisingly, many business internet customers are already reporting that their bandwidth requirements are increasing by nearly 25 percent each year.

Upload & Download Speeds

Another point to be aware of is upload versus download speeds; in most cases these will not be the same.  Internet speeds are typically listed in download x upload, i.e. 3 X .384 – typical DSL speed, meaning 3 Mbps download and .384 Mbps (384 Kilobytes per second) upload. Usually you will have more download than upload speed, but some higher capacity options like fiber optic cable or the older T1 and T3 technologies will give you a symmetrical throughput (same upload and download speed).

Accounting for the Future

As the projections show, networks are increasingly requiring more capacity and 1 Gbps networks are where things are headed. You also need to plan for growth.

Some considerations for IT leaders:

  • Businesses need 100 Mbps per 1,000 users or 100 Kbps per user
  • By 2017, businesses will require 1 Gbps per 1,000 users or 1 Mbps per user
  • For high-definition video streaming each person requires 4 Mbps of download speed
  • For video conferencing (Skype, Google Hangouts, Go To Meeting, etc.) each person requires about 8 Mbps of download speed

Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth states that internet usage doubles every 12 months. If you need 10 Mbps of bandwidth service right now, next year you’ll probably need 20 Mbps. With IP traffic in North America predicted to reach 49.7 exabytes per month by 2019 (that’s one billion gigabytes), now is the time to evaluate your organization’s bandwidth needs and ensure that your broadband delivery method is able to support business growth.

An increase in bandwidth or making the switch to gigabit internet, allows employees to increase productivity and overall profitability within your organization.


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