When Broadband Options Seem Few
A guide to finding broadband access no matter where you are.
By: John Shepler
If your business is located downtown in a major metro area, the idea of network and telecom services being hard to find seems a little odd. You probably have at least a couple of competitive providers vying for your business, as well as the local telephone company. Your challenge is to find the best deal on connectivity, trunk lines and cloud services. There are likely options available that you don’t even know about.
If you are located in a rural area or working from a home office, this wealth of opportunity may be missing. You may feel that nothing is available or you are stuck with a single option that’s a real stretch for your budget. Actually, there may be more bandwidth options available than you think.
T1 Lines are Readily Available
Businesses with their own commercial addresses have it the easiest. They can almost always get at least some traditional telecommunications services. These include POTS phone service and T1 lines. Both use the same twisted pair copper cables that connect nearly every building.
T1 started out as a telephone trunking service, but has been used for dedicated private lines and Internet access for decades. Each T1 line provides 1.5 Mbps in both the upload and download directions. Today that’s pretty low-end broadband, but it’s more than sufficient for credit card verification, email and simple Web access. You can also run backups to the cloud and connect with headquarters.
Boosting T1 Bandwidth
Not enough bandwidth? T1 lines can be bonded together to create a larger data pipe. Two bonded lines gives you 3 Mbps, 4 lines offer 6 Mbps and so on up to 10 or 12 Mbps. Bonded T1 is highly reliable and readily available. You might find it a bit pricey because there is no economy of scale. Two lines cost 2x one line. Even so, out in the boonies T1 and bonded T1 is likely well worth the cost. That cost has dropped precipitously in the last few years, by the way. If you haven’t taken a look at T1 lately you may be surprised by the value. Even so, expect to spend a couple hundred dollars a month or more for T1 service.
Broadband From Space
Another service almost universally available is two-way satellite or VSAT. Many small retail locations use satellite for their transaction processing and connectivity to HQ. Satellite bandwidth has been similar to T1 ata somewhat lower cost. More advanced satellites now offer bandwidths of 10 Mbps or more for a higher price. The thing to know about satellites is that they can connect anywhere in the country with a clear view of the southern sky. You can even power the equipment “off the grid.” Limitations are that bandwidth is shared and you are generally limited in the amount of data you can upload or download each month. Latency is also high, making the service hard to use for VoIP telephony. Compare that with dedicated line services that offer low latency and have no usage limits.
Broadband From Cell Towers
If your needs are modest, you may get by with 3G or 4G fixed wireless. This is a fancier “all office” version of a smartphone hotspot. If you can get smartphone broadband at your location, this service should work for your office or store. Just know that usage is limited and sometimes involves overage charges. It’s great for transaction processing and simple Internet usage, but not for heavy video usage and software downloads.
What’s Available for the Home Office?
SOHO (Small Office Home Office) users generally choose DSL or Cable broadband because of the low cost with decent performance. It’s not uncommon to get all the speed you need for $50 or so. You won’t find anything like those prices with T1 or bonded T1 lines. That’s because the bandwidth is shared among many customers and is a “best effort” rather than guaranteed availability service.
I often get inquiries from home office users who can’t get or don’t “like” their cable or DSL choices, but are shocked at the cost of more reliable and higher performing business telecom services. Are there any other options available?
You, too, can get two-way satellite service. You may be quite happy with it or be frustrated by the latency (time delay hesitation), usage limits, and interruptions during bad weather. It depends on what you are doing.
Fixed Wireless for SOHO Use
How about fixed wireless? If you can get good cellular service, you might consider something like a “Mi-Fi” hotspot that creates a WiFi hotspot using bandwidth on your 3G or 4G LTE cellular plan. This lets you use your desktop and laptop computers, tablets and other Internet devices on the same Internet access available from your smartphone. Once again, this is “light duty” service that is great for limited or emergency usage, but not for consistently heavy traffic.
Other Wireless Options
Another option that’s available in some areas but not others is non-cellular fixed wireless. These are WISPs or Wireless Internet Service Providers. Generally, these companies install a small dish or antenna on your home or office building and give you a wired connection for your router. You’ll need to look for these locally, as they are typically local enterprises not connected with nationwide providers. You also need to be within line of sight from their tower or towers and not too far away.
Call for Fiber… Maybe
How about fiber optic service? Verizon, Google and other companies have been building out fiber systems in select locations around the country. If you are lucky enough to be within one of these service footprints, you can get a lot of bandwidth for the money with FTTP (Fiber to the Premises).
Finding Home Office Broadband
If you are have a home office, you can try checking for DSL/Cable services or 3G/4G cellular wireless. You can also do an Internet search for satellite broadband from Dish Network, DIRECTV and others. Look locally for non-cellular fixed wireless.
Finding Business Location Bandwidth
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