Gigabit internet speeds? Does your business need that speed to the Internet or just between locations?

Let’s seriously talk about a companies broadband , internet and connection needs. This topic is specifically for business and commercial accounts that are not serving residential uses. Most people from a personal or home level consume or download more internet content and don’t produce or upload a lot of data. A large majority of the download content they consume is video related. Business class users are a lot different. Video content consumed at the commercial level is small because people are usually busy working and do not use the video for entertainment. Companies will always consume some video content but that is typically work related and not watching TV shows for hours at a time. What businesses do need is stable connectivity and usually just as much upload speed as they use in the download direction. Various industries produce data and transmit that information via email, to cloud servers, or to other branches of their company not within the same local campus. Many times they also have their own web sites, on line commerce solutions, inventory databases, and order fulfillment connectivity requirements. This creates upload just as much as download traffic. Residential classes of broadband internet connections do not suit these purposes well.

Business class connectivity needs vary and the increased connectivity speeds are required more between locations and not to the internet itself. While everyone needs the internet to function, those speed and capacity requirements are not necessarily as much as you might think. The problem is, most people think of data connectivity and the “Internet” as one and the same thing. A company may have internal network requirements that are different from their internet requirements. An example of an industry that would have these types of needs is a regional healthcare system that has started to embrace digital medial records, remote clinics, Tele-Medicine, and imaging tools. These are all great technologies and they do require a lot of connectivity speed and capacity. If these connections are always between the same locations such as clinics, doctors offices, hospitals and other medical facilities, that speed and capacity needs to be between them and not necessarily over the internet. Many use the internet because it is an easy way to make these connections without building a complex network to meet one’s needs.

The problem with using the internet as your network between business locations is that you are paying twice to have that speed and capacity. By that I mean each location you are paying for an internet connection that delivers the speed you need without data caps. Each end point location is buying an internet connection for data that most of the time will never have a need to be on the public internet. Server to server traffic, file storage,  data backups, interoffice emails and such should not have to pay to transit the internet most of the time. Let’s not forget about the security and privacy issues and risks of using the public internet as your transport network.

In the last 10 years there have been huge advances in technology with microwave radios and regulatory rules to allow a private company to build their own data networks. This technology allows you to build what becomes an internal wide area network that interconnects your in building LAN networks together, without using the internet. There are costs in building these networks but they are typically one time capital investments. Depending on what each of your locations is paying for their current data connectivity, the payback period for that capital investment could be quite fast.

Microwave radios for high speed networks is nothing new. Our original national long distance telephone network was built in the 1950’s using the technology . It was upgraded to fiber eventually due to the volume of traffic. Most companies will never exceed this volume on their own.

AT&T Microwave routes 1960

AT&T Long Lines Phone Network over microwave radios 1960

It is now possible to build a private gigabit or faster network of your own. The radio technology, speeds and costs vary based on the distances between locations. The design challenges are many and it may not always be cost effective to interconnect each of your locations, but there are many benefits of these types of networks. One obvious reason is cost savings, another is the increase speeds and capacity of internal systems. This can lead to increased productivity for employees. From an IT perspective it can lead to easier management of remote site systems. This could lead to a possible reduction in the amount of technical staff. Physical off site redundant data backups are now possible in an automated fashion without having to store on commercial servers. Company systems like voice over IP phones, gotomeetings and video conferences would work better. Diverse internet backup systems would now be possible. If the internet is down at one location, the traffic can be routed to another company location where the internet is still functional. How much does a company lose when internet is out? In the hospitality industry I would imagine a lot because they cannot process credit cards or take reservations through on line systems or apps.

Gigabit Chicago network design

Private gigabit data network possibility in the Chicago area.

What would it take to build your own network? A few pieces of information are required to look at a design. First the address data for each location that needs to be interconnected. Second would be a data speed and capacity review for each of those locations. In this review one should look at the data needs for internal systems as compared to general internet needs. Third would be the costs being paid for the current network connectivity solution within the company. This will go a long way towards a cost benefit analysis of building your own vs. staying with what you have. Other great data to compile in the analysis is the tech support and lost productivity for inefficiently working systems that run remotely over the current network. Other cost savings may be in software and hardware reductions. If remote locations run their own servers and hardware with costly software licenses, a more centralized system becomes a reality with your own wide area private network.

Microwave network possibilities

High speed data network possibility in a suburb of Detroit

If you believe your company should look at the possibility of building your own private high capacity data network, please contact me.

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About Brian Webster - Wireless Mapping Inc

Telecommunications Engineer and Geographic Information Systems Consultant with over 28 years experience. Specialties include Radio Frequency (RF) system design, high speed internet networks, project management, custom mapping, business intelligence research, and data mining services.
This entry was posted in Broadband Internet, High Speed Internet, Telecommunications. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gigabit internet speeds? Does your business need that speed to the Internet or just between locations?

  1. FTTH says:

    This article is a wee bit optimistic.

    Firstly, wireless requires line of sight. This greatly limits it’s use.

    Secondly, in no way, shape or form is wireless a onetime capital expenditure. Wireless has (major) ongoing costs, like most other options.

    Thirdly, wireless only works out if you have stable or low growth bandwidth usage. If you outgrow your wireless system, it’s a forklift upgrade and all savings are lost if you have to do that before you reach ROI.

    Fourthly, wireless is inherently less reliable than fiber.

    Fifthly, the Internet portion of a network connection is quite small, so if that’s all that you are saving, then the savings won’t be much. And it’s not like you can’t order dedicated circuits between offices without the internet.

    Sixthly, rolling your own connectivity has it’s own downsides. You are now responsible for redundancy, resiliency, sparing, upgrades and maintenance. That costs money too. It’s the classic build or buy question. It depends on the circumstances if it is warranted or not.

    Wireless has it’s place, but it is no silver bullet.

    • All valid points but these wireless links we are talking about are not the cheap unlicensed equipment most people are familiar with.

      Point one, yes you are correct. In metro markets rooftop to rooftop paths such as this are easily possible as well as links to other high sites to build a network. It may take multiple hops or links.

      Point two, depending on the site locations for the radios the ongoing costs can be as simple as the electricity to run the radios. The links I am talking about are carrier grade. Other ongoing costs could be site rent for links you may have to build on other structures to complete your network. An additional cost here in the US will be the one time license in the FCC database and the registration for each link. Beyond that there is no ongoing costs.

      Point three, these carrier grade licensed microwave links have bandwidth capacity up to 10 gigabits and from the manufacturers I have been watching the improvements are always getting better. The licensed spectrum here in the US for these is 60 times more than all of the cellular spectrum from all carriers.

      Point four, this statement is flat out false. If the microwave paths are properly engineered, 5 nines of reliability is the norm. Add that to engineering a network with redundant path topology and the network reliability is just as high as any other. Most public safety 911 radio systems rely heavily on these types of networks and have been doing so for 50 plus years. We are not talking about the type of equipment commonly used in the unlicensed spectrum today.

      Point 5, depending on the cost of the circuits a company is purchasing this is not the case in what they are paying for. As I stated if the bulk of the bandwidth needs are let’s say 300 megabit requirements and the internet traffic portion is not much more than 50 meg, companies are paying for the high capacity circuit costs from commercial providers at a much higher rate. That is not to say that buying these types of circuits is still not the least expensive way to go. Every company network needs are different, the geography to possible deploy a microwave network may be too challenging to build. Local broadband competition and pricing plays a huge role in this. The ease of fiber deployments and/or costs is also another big factor. In a city like Chicago the cost to deploy fiber exceeds $400,000 per mile in US dollars and the time to get that done is immense. Installation charges of $10,000 to $20,000 are not uncommon to be charged a customer and 6 to 12 months wait is also commonplace.

      Point six, you are correct. Depending on your location the cost benefit analysis may prove that it is cheaper to go with an incumbent provider. Time to installation and costs charged on top of the ongoing cost from an existing provider or even their willingness to serve a certain location may make wireless more attractive.

      You bring up many valid points that need to be looked at as the cost benefit study for anyone considering this option. If a company is fortunate enough to have a local carrier who can deploy fiber connections quickly and at reasonable costs, it would be hard to justify building their own network. In the major metro markets around the world where installing fiber or other systems is such a challenge due to regulatory or construction realities, these networks may serve their needs.

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