For today’s businesses, fast Internet access is more than a competitive advantage. It is an operational necessity. Changes in the way companies are working – and the tools they are using – have created the need for high-speed connections to services and individuals off site.
For today’s businesses, fast Internet access is more than a competitive advantage. It is an operational necessity. Changes in the way companies are working – and the tools they are using – have created the need for high-speed connections to services and individuals off site. Across the country, in-house servers are rapidly being replaced by cloud-based infrastructure. Videoconferencing is helping businesses cut travel costs. Mobile devices – with easy links to work-related content – are enabling more employees to be more productive from any location. All of these applications have one factor in common: they require bandwidth. And plenty of it.
A decade ago, most small- and medium-size businesses could get by with an Internet connection of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps). But with today’s usage, the benchmark is closer to 50 Mbps – and very soon, it will reach 100 Mbps. Businesses that don’t have that kind of bandwidth will find themselves unable to fully leverage trends like the cloud and remote access. And to be sure, if they don’t, the competition will. Spending on public IT cloud services – including applications, servers, and storage – is expected to grow from $47.4 billion in 2013 to more than $107 billion in 2017, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). Not surprisingly, many business Internet customers are already reporting that their bandwidth requirements are increasing by nearly 25 percent each year.
How, then, will today’s businesses meet their need for speed? For most small- and medium-size companies, the choice will be between two broadband technologies: DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and high-speed cable. Both have made significant advances in recent years, and promise faster Internet access than ever before. But DSL and cable are very different technologies, with different characteristics and capabilities. Users need to understand these differences if they are to meet their bandwidth needs – and their business goals – not just for today, but for tomorrow, as well.
DSL may transmit data, but it is based on a technology developed for voice: traditional twisted-pair copper wires. Twisted-pair was a breakthrough when it was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1881, eliminating crosstalk and other interference from telephone calls. More than a century later, phone companies developed the means to send data over those same wires. Voice and data could travel simultaneously over a single cabling infrastructure, with the data traveling at a different frequency. Since telephone companies had already deployed huge networks of twisted-pair cabling, they naturally became the prime providers of DSL service.
Cable high-speed Internet, on the other hand, was developed specifically to transmit data. Its breakthrough is far more recent, occurring in the late 1990s when the first version of DOCSIS – the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification – emerged. DOCSIS is a global standard that enables the addition of high-speed data transfer to the existing hybrid fiber-coaxial infrastructure used by cable providers. The most recent version of the standard – DOCSIS 3.0 – supports the simultaneous delivery of video, voice, and data at speeds that already meet the 100 Mbps threshold.
Next week, I’ll go into the details of how the two broadband technologies compare.