Friday, February 10, 2012

How Much Does Network Performance Vary in North America

The days where business was done by phone and fax are longgone. So are the days when a company housed all its servers and applicationsonsite. Companies now conduct their day to day affairs by email, voice over IPand even video conferencing. Servers and their programs are now frequentlyhoused in offsite collocation facilities. Some business applications only existas services in the cloud. As companies rely more on new technologies, theimportance of broadband network performance is becoming paramount. 

Image Source: SmallBusiness Office Solutions
Considering how vital network performance is, it’s shocking to note that arecent FCCstudy revealed over 80% of broadband customers don’t even know theadvertised speed of their service provider or how much of that performance theyactually receive. The most likely cause of this confusion is that broadbandnetwork service varies greatly nationwide. Regardless of provider, whether youneed to understand your network performance from Allstream, Verizon, AT&T or any other carrier,it is vital to first understand which factors influence the wide discrepanciesin network performance across North America.

Available Carriers

There are many broadband carriers nationwide and performance varies dependingon which carrier your company chooses. Speaking broadly based on statistics,larger carriers typically offer better speeds. This is because larger carrierslike Verizon or Comcast have larger networks with more redundancy and moreaccess to better Internet backbones to their smaller competitors, who aresometimes just resellers. What this means to broadband customers is that accessto more choices leads to a better variety of available speeds. Fewer choices,on the other hand, means businesses in a given area may have to simply acceptthe speeds and technologies available to them.

Technology Differences

Fiber is, without a doubt, the fastest broadband technology currentlyavailable. While the nationwide average broadband download speed is roughly5Mbps, fiber customers will experience 12Mbps or better performance from thisemerging technology. The problem here is that fiber is not available everywhereyet. As a matter of fact, fiber broadband connectivity is available in lessthan 28% of thecountry right now. For business customers, the availability of fiber versusonly having access cable or DSL means a tremendous swing in networkperformance.

Advertised versus Real Speeds

When considering providers and technologies, another factor that it is crucialfor businesses to consider is advertised speed versus real speed. For example,if only cable and DSL are available in an area, the DSL provider may advertisedownload speeds comparable to cable. The same may be true of cable providers inareas where fiber is available. While conventional wisdom says cable is fasterthan DSL and Fiber is faster than cable, businesses need to understand actualperformance compared to advertising to fully comprehend nationwide variances inspeed.
 Another FCCreport stated that DSL services typically deliver 82% of download speedscompared to 93% for cable-based services and 114% for fiber. Along withtechnology differences and carrier availability, businesses must thoroughlyevaluate provider claims and compare them to studies, reports and peer comments to truly understand speed differences and evaluate broadband providers.

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