These days it is almost a given that if you want to run a successful business (of any size), you need an internet connection that can give you increased data speeds along with reliability and dependable performance. Organisations generate massive amounts of data, they are much busier in the cloud and an increasingly remote workforce needs to be addressed. Currently, it is not always clear what you are paying for. Which technology is actually “fast” and which is “fibre”? What is it that your organisation actually needs?
Once upon a time there were leased lines and life was simple. Businesses enjoyed an always-on dedicated service along with service level agreements (SLAs) and, importantly, significantly faster bandwidth speeds (compared to the public switched telephone network – PSTN). However, these leased lines were not cheap and took time to set up.
But now we enjoy broadband services, with the leased line business taking up a more specialised position – the standard broadband services of today are much quicker than their counterpart leased lines from days gone by. The majority of broadband services run over the old copper network (PSTN), which is older than the Queen! Often, the last bit of the network that comes into their site is copper-based and is known as the ‘last mile’. Here is where the marketing games start – services are delivered as ‘fibre’ until the ‘last mile’ is reached but then you get copper which is affected by the distance and quality of the wire, giving business slower inconsistent speeds and poor reliability. Calling such services ‘fibre broadband’ (FTTC) is disingenuous.
What is fibre broadband?
Currently, fibre broadband services are offered as follows:
- Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) – advertised as “fibre broadband”, delivered to the local cabinet in the street as fibre, but over a copper network to the premises.
- Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – advertised as “fibre broadband” or “full-fibre”, the majority of FTTP in the UK is delivered over GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network). This is a shared access fibre network.
- Dedicated Fibre, or Fibre Ethernet – dedicated fibre to the premises for the exclusive use of that customer.
In the UK currently, the fastest generally available broadband speed offered to homes and businesses (in standard packages) is 1,000Mbps or a “Gigabit” of speed. But there are now far more broadband users than 20 years ago with more data being carried over networks that are contended – businesses get their “fibre” which has to share connectivity over networks. Also, providers are guilty of throttling capacity which means that Gb capacity is rarely achieved and high levels of demand from other users negatively impact speed and capacity.
In fact, Gigabit broadband users may only enjoy an average of one-tenth or less of the promised capacity that they pay for – not 1Gbps but 100Mbps! And if your organisation is in a building where you might be sharing links with other businesses, this can lead to real deterioration if lots of people are all using the service at the same time. Not really what you expect when paying for Gigabit levels of service. It is worth checking what type of connection you have? It should indicate what type of data speeds are potentially available to you, or should it…
The fallacy of full-fibre
Really, the only way you can be sure to get “full-fibre” (when considered in terms of speed and capacity) is to buy a dedicated Fibre Ethernet service. This type of service, available from specialist providers, delivers a dedicated fibre connection to your premises for the exclusive use of your organisation. You don’t have to worry about copper wires or contended networks here. In some ways, it’s like the leased lines of the years gone by, although in this case, Fibre Ethernet connections are much more scalable, flexible and much cheaper too.
A dedicated Fibre Ethernet solution (like the old leased lines) should also provide your business with all the SLA items that you will need. For example, guaranteed speeds to support data-heavy applications like data analytics, lower latency connectivity for real-time voice and video conferencing, no data packet losses on the network, scalable line upgrades in response to business growth…and the list goes on.
There is clearly confusion as a recent research paper from UK service provider G.Network illustrates. They found that 59 per cent of business leaders said they enjoyed “full-fibre” broadband connections, even though they are only currently available to 16 per cent of commercial premises. By researching and understanding all of the options, away from the smoke and mirrors marketing tactics, business owners can make a more informed choice around their connectivity and ultimately get what they are actually paying for.