Choosing the right broadband solution for your head, branch or home office can often be confusing given the choice of access technologies available. Each “last mile” offers slightly different features, benefits and comes at a different price point. Whether you require connectivity to a private IP network, cloud hosted services, voice, backup or simply an internet connection, your choice will be influenced by that requirement. In this article, I will provide an overview of the primary business broadband access technologies available.
Standard ADSL – Stands for asynchronous digital subscriber line. It is a digital broadband technology that is delivered over copper wire meaning that distance is a primary factor in its performance. The further away a location is from the exchange, the less speed can be delivered over that technology. ADSL is widely available across Australia. Speeds with ADSL vary. The download speed has a greater capacity than the upload speed meaning that it is not well suited to hosting. Speeds in Australia range up to 8Mb/384Kb which means a theoretical 8Mb download and 384Kb upload capability. It is best suited to small business and remote office workers.
ADSL2+ – It is an enhancement on standard ADSL in that it effectively doubles the speed of traditional ADSL. The effective maximum performance is 24Mb download and 1Mb upload. ADSL2+ is also widely available. There are some interesting enhancement on ADSL2+ technologies with Annex M (which delivers 2MB/2Mb over ADSL) and Annex A (which delivers 20Mb/3Mb over ADSL). Due to the high speed of upload Annex A is a fantastic solution for branch offices with an entry level price point.
SHDSL – Stands for symmetric high speed digital subscriber line. It means that the upload and download speeds are equal in transfer capability. SHDSL is perfect for branch offices that use IP telephony, have a private IP network or operate a VPN. The access technology is not as widely available as ADSL and most often comes with a service level agreement (SLA). SHDSL is considered a business grade broadband service, however with a maximum speed of 4Mb/4Mb, it’s only suited to smaller businesses. Its use is not as popular as it was 5 years ago and newer technologies deliver greater speed.
Ethernet over Copper – EoC is a most widely used broadband technology in Australia as it makes use of the existing copper network lines to provide high speed access. Because the service is handed off to the customer as an Ethernet (RJ45) connection, it can be easily plugged into a switch or firewall. EoC is available in most capital and regional centres and is increasingly used as the primary technology method for Australian businesses. The service almost always comes with a SLA, is uncontended (1:1) and very reliable. Provided on copper, the maximum speed that can be provided is again impacted by the distance the location is to the exchange. The current maximum connection is 80Mb/80Mb. EoC meets the needs of most Australian businesses and is suitable for cloud computing, hosting, voice and other such technologies.
Ethernet over fiber – EoF is a highly reliable, scalable, high speed solution which offers dedicated and guaranteed bandwidth from 2Mb up to 1Gb. Handed off as Ethernet, it’s simple to connect directly to a switch or firewall (plug and play). In many ways, EoF is the best technology but its availability is mostly limited to CBDs and larger metropolitan areas. If the location address has fibre close by, the installation charges are often reasonable. However for locations further away from fibre there is the installation price which often makes the technology prohibitive.
Wireless 3G/4G – Differing from the fixed line technologies presented so far is wireless 3G/4G. It is suitable for mobile/roaming users who require Internet access or connectivity to a private IP network. 3G/4G is a cost effective access technology suitable for a single user or small branch office as a backup link. The technology is a shared service (the more users accessing a 3G/4G tower the higher contention) and suffers from high latency and slow upload speed.
Wireless Point to Point/Multi-Point – This technology bypasses the traditional fixed line technology and delivers fibre type speeds from 1Mb to 1Gb. Under the right circumstances, this technology is cost effective and high performing. Coverage is continuing to grow as the reliability and footprint of wireless carriers expands . The range of a wireless link is determined by many variable factors. Distance from the major base stations, line of sight (no interference such as trees and buildings), the equipment used and environmental factors all play a part in the performance and reliability of the connection.
Satellite – In the most remote locations where traditional wireline and wireless services cannot be accessed, there is satellite technology. Unsurprisingly, the performance of satellite services is quite limited and expensive. The satellite service is roaming or you can instal it into a branch office. Speeds vary, with most providers able to deliver speeds up to 1Mb.
There are other technologies on the market such as cable and dark fibre, however I thought these would be irrelevant to this post. If you have any questions or would like to discuss how you can put these differing technologies to work for your business, please feel free to contact me.