As you shop around for internet bandwidth you’ll probably run into lots of excellent terms—High-speed, Business-class, Spectrum, 4G, FiOS, U-verse, (and a gaggle of others I’m probably not thinking of); but how do you compare them when you’re looking at the options? You have to consider the speed, the transmission style, and the price.
On each proposal, you’ll see numbers giving you an expected speed. Different companies write that information differently, but some things will be constant.
Internet speed is measured in bits per second. And they also use the metric system. So you could see kilobits (kb), Megabits (Mb), or Gigabits (Gb).
Gb=1000Mb=1,000,000Kb. You’ll also see two different speeds. The first measures how many bits coming down to you from the internet; the second measures how many bits per second you can send up to the internet—thus download and upload.
So, if you see 1Mb/768kb on a proposal, that’s 1 Megabit download and 768 kilobit upload.
If you need to upload large files, webpages, or other information to the internet, you’ll definitely want a great upload speed.
If you just need to surf, you can focus more on download speed.
Circuits that have two different speeds (like the previous example) are called asynchronous. Circuits that have the same speed up and down 1Mb/1Mb are called synchronous circuits. They’re often available, but the price goes up considerably for that kind of capability.
The next thing you’ll need to check will be what medium they’re using to transmit the internet to you. The most common are copper, coax, wireless, and fiber.
Copper is far and away the most available and uses low-voltage electrical signals (like phone lines) to transmit the data. It’s very stable and lots of different speeds are available—from 56 kilobit dial-up to multiple Megabit connections. Coax is also copper; it is primarily used by cable providers, and it’s usually less stable than the other wireline products, but it’s often less expensive.
Wireless internet providers use radio waves to get the internet to you. Because it’s traveling through the air, it’s more likely to be interrupted by environmental factors and other products are often faster, but it can be easy to install and convenient—and it’s often available in locations where no other options can reach.
Fiber-optic cables use pulses of light over plastic or glass wires. It is often more stable that other options and available speeds go into multiple Gigabits. It is, not surprisingly, the most expensive option.
As far as price, comparing the speeds and weighing the benefits and drawbacks of the different transmission styles will help you find the best value. But it all comes down what your business needs. If your business demands stability at all times, you’ll need to weigh the transmission media as high as the speed. If an outage doesn’t represent the end of work, maybe there are less stable options that could save you some cash.
The disclaimer: you’ve probably noticed a lot of “often” and “likely” and “usually” in this article; every circuit and every provider is different, and your specific situation may yield different results.