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Dedicated vs Cable Bandwidth Services
Comparing dedicated services like T1 and EoC with Cable broadband price and performance.

By: John Shepler

There are a couple of good but quite different approaches to business Internet connectivity. One is dedicated bandwidth, as exemplified by T1 lines and Ethernet over Copper. The other is Cable broadband. Let’s take a look at what each has to offer and how you would pick the right service for your business.

How The Choice Is Made
Small and medium size businesses that pick dedicated bandwidth services do so either because there is no shared bandwidth service readily available or because they value the consistency and service level agreements provided by the dedicated telecom providers. Companies that choose Cable broadband do so because they get a lot of bandwidth for a relatively small price. Cable BB is an established service that has been proven in years of service to residential and business users. The service availability is generally quite good, especially during business hours, and the low prices may be more important than service guarantees.

What Does Dedicated Mean
It’s important to note the definition of the term “dedicated” in this context. It doesn’t mean working extra hard like, say, a dedicated employee. What dedicated means is that a certain amount of bandwidth is reserved or dedicated to your exclusive use. If you order a T1 line, you can count on having 1.5 Mbps upload and 1.5 Mbps download capability available at all times. There is no such thing as overage charges or fair use policies. You can load that T1 line up to the limit and run it that way all month. You’ll be charged the same as if you lightly used the service during business hours and let it idle overnight.

Shared Bandwith
Cable broadband is sold on a different basis. First of all, the bandwidth is shared not dedicated. You’ll notice that Cable bandwidth is specified as “up to” 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps and so on. At any given moment you may experience the full bandwidth or a small fraction of it. Why? It’s the sharing involved. What Cable companies do is lease large dedicated bandwidth circuits and then divvy that bandwidth up among their subscribers. The chunk allocated to your area may be shared by dozens or hundreds of other users. Whether or not that makes a difference depends on what you are doing on the Internet and what others on the same service are doing.

Cable Well Matched To Internet Access
Cable broadband is designed to match the expected activities of the typical Internet user. You know that when you are looking something up online, you first query a search engine. Then you read through the first page or two of listings deciding on what site to visit. Finally, you select a site and it downloads in your browser. You may quickly go to visit another page on that site or you may spend a minute or two reading what’s on the screen.

Notice that what you were doing was sending out commands from your keyboard, waiting for a page download and then not accessing the Internet at all while you perused the material. That’s why shared bandwidth works. Not everyone is going to be typing on their keyboard or in the midst of a file download simultaneously. While you are reading, someone else can be downloading and vice versa.

Asymmetrical Bandwidth
This is also the reason why asymmetrical bandwidth works so well for Internet access. Asymmetrical means that upload and download speeds are vastly different. You may order 30 Mbps download with 3 Mbps or 6 Mbps upload and be perfectly satisfied. It only takes a small amount of data from the keyboard to trigger much larger data packages in the form of websites or videos to download.

Where Symmetrical BW Shines
Dedicated bandwidth services like T1, DS3, EoC, EoF and SONET fiber optic tend to be symmetrical. The upload and download speeds are the same. This is particularly valuable if you are communicating between organizations, sending files back and forth, uploading to a remote server or backing up files. In these cases, upload capacity counts.

VoIP Needs Dedicated Bandwdith
The other service that works much better over dedicated rather than shared bandwidth is VoIP telephony. In fact, you are much better off connecting directly to your VoIP service provider with a dedicated T1 line or SIP trunk than using the Internet at all. The Internet offers no class of service controls so your sensitive voice packets can easily get pushed around by someone else’s data packets. That situation is even worse on shared bandwidth access services where your bandwidth varies all over the place.

Compare Services
Is your business in need of Internet access, point to point connections or multi-location connectivity? Check prices on dedicated and shared bandwidth options and get complementary expert advice on what services make the most sense for your business requirements.

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