15 Jul Business Internet providers | Why the cost of a 1Gbps connection can vary from $80 to $5,000?
A search for Internet packages from business Internet providers will reveal a wide variability in prices for the same bandwidth. For example, a search for a 1Gbps symmetric download connection to the Internet revealed a range of prices from as low as $80 to as high as $5,000! Obviously, the cost of business Internet access is a function of multiple variables and one has to be very specific about what they require in a business Internet service. In this article, some of the most important variables are reviewed.
What business Internet providers and options are available in the area of interest?
There are over 2,500 Internet service providers in the USA but most of them are concentrated in major metropolitan areas. While businesses in Manhattan have more than 30 service providers to choose from, in Taylor, Mississippi, businesses are limited to services from AT&T and one or two other providers. Thus, a business in Manhattan will likely pay less than one in Taylor for exactly the same package due to the different competitive environments.
The first step in researching the optimum business Internet access is to list available providers and their packages in the area of interest. GeoQuote is a very useful tool for researching this information in one place on the Internet for free.
Business Internet bundles
For most small businesses, the additional free services that come with business Internet access are most important. All business Internet providers offer additional services which include some or all of the following:
- Email addresses
- Web hosting
- A wireless gateway
- Access to wireless hotspots by larger providers with national coverage
- Phone and video services, usually part of triple play service
- 24/7 network monitoring (Also offered by FiberGuide to services sourced through the company)
Typical Internet speeds can range anywhere between 384Kbps and 100Gbps depending on business location. Higher speeds are possible with fiber optic connections. However, unless the Internet service is dedicated or the bandwidth is guaranteed, actual speeds may vary. Check speed test results for your business Internet provider in your area to get a good understanding of the actual speed.
Some business Internet providers may restrict the total amount of data a business can download in a month. This is referred to as data capping and it can be achieved by throttling (or slowing down speed) of the service when the download threshold is reached, charging for excess downloaded data or by stopping service after the threshold is reached (hard cap). It is incumbent upon the buyer to ensure that the service offers “all you can eat” or uncapped data. Mobile data capping in the USA is well known but most people are not aware of capping in wireline services because the thresholds are sometimes very high. Businesses may offer unlimited data download for a premium and capped data for a reduced price.
Static IP address
The business Internet provider may offer static IP addresses, dynamic IP addresses or a combination of both. As opposed to dynamic IP addresses that change, Static IP addresses are fixed and they are required for applications such as local servers, VPN service, gaming and other business applications. It is incumbent on the buyer to find out if IP addresses offered are static or dynamic. Static IP addresses will most likely hike the cost of the service and should only be included if it is absolutely necessary.
Dedicated Internet access and service level agreement
A dedicated Internet connection is one for which there is a direct connection (physical or virtual) between the ISP and the subscriber. The bandwidth provided is exclusively for the use of the subscriber and is not shared. A shared Internet connection, on the other hand, is shared with other subscribers in the neighborhood. The Internet provider oversubscribes assuming that subscribers sharing the connection are unlikely to request or upload data to/from the ISP at the same time. The Internet speed tend to be high when there are no other subscribers online and falls when other subscribers are online. Dedicated Internet access is significantly more expensive than shared services. For applications such as occasional browsing and email access, shared business Internet access may be the most logical choice.
For a service to be considered dedicated, it should come with a Service Level Agreement (SLA). SLA may guarantee speed, network uptime, latency, packet loss, and some business Internet providers also guarantee jitter.
Uptime or availability is the probability that the network will be up and running at any given point in time. For some services, business Internet providers guarantee Internet availability as a percentage. Typical network availabilities range from 99.5% to 99.999% (the so called 5 9s). 99.5% availability translates to 44 hours of possible downtime in a year which is not acceptable for some businesses. 99.999% availability translates to only 5 minutes of possible downtime in a year. Of course, the ideal availability is 100% which is difficult to achieve. Businesses may get close to 100% availability by implementing redundancy, a second dedicated Internet connection through a different ISP. Availability guarantees come at a premium and businesses should expect to pay significantly more for it.
Latency is the time delay between the sending and the receiving of data. Applications like VoIP, gaming and high frequency trading require the lowest possible latency. Satellite broadband over geosynchronous satellites, for example, suffer latency of at least 540 milliseconds contributed by the data roundtrip to and from the satellite. On the other hand, optical fiber only contributes 3.34µs per fiber kilometer to Internet over fiber optics.
Jitter is the change in latency and makes communication even more difficult. If you are making a call routed over satellite, such as from the USA to the Democratic Republic of Congo, you can adjust to a constant latency. But random changes in latency will completely destabilize your communication because you can no longer anticipate when to receive a signal and when the other end is receiving your signal. Applications that are sensitive to latency are even more sensitive to jitter.
Packet loss occurs when data packets being transmitted in a network fail to reach their destination. This frequently occurs in mobile networks due to transmission errors or congestion. Packet loss is measured as a percentage of packets lost relative to packets sent.
Symmetric/Asymmetric Internet access
A symmetric network is one in which a device sends and receive data at the same rate. In the case of Internet access, a symmetric connection allows for equal download and upload speeds. An asymmetric connection, on the other hand, allows for more download speed and less upload speed. When bandwidth is limited, such as in the case of DSL and satellite Internet, more bandwidth is allocated to downloading with the assumption that most people download data more than they upload it.
Internet access technology
The access technology used to connect a subscriber to the Internet has an impact on the speed, quality, and cost of the service. Fiber optics enables the highest speed, low latency, and low jitter. Satellite connections are typically very expensive and have high latency. The following is a list of prominent Internet access technologies:
- Passive Optical Network (PON)
- Ethernet over fiber
- Ethernet over copper
- Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
- Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC) or cable
- Fixed wireless networks
- Mobile networks
- Satellite networks
- T1 Lines
Researching business Internet providers
For researching business Internet providers, business Internet packages and pricing options, use GeoQuote. GeoQuote is a one stop research tool that allows you to research a wide range of carrier services.