Dedicated Fiber Internet vs. Broadband Over Fiber: When Do I Need Which?
Broadband over fiber or dedicated fiber - what does that even mean? In this blog, we’ll break down these options and help you select the best option for you.
What’s life without internet connectivity, right? From banking and ecommerce to catching up with your favorite socials and streaming movies and series, a fast, reliable internet connection is essential. And that goes double for an always-on, future-focused enterprise. For an enterprise, if internet access is down, revenue generating events may not occur, which can be costly.
Typically, enterprises choose between broadband over fiber or a dedicated fiber service. But what does any of that mean? In this blog article, we’ll break down the different options, the pros and cons of each, and help you select the best option for your business.
Firstly, let’s clear up a common misconception about broadband over fiber: while it shares similarities with older broadband offerings, they’re not quite the same thing. Classic broadband, better known as ADSL (remember that?), was delivered over copper wiring and had peak download speeds of 8 Mbps (with a much lower upload speed). More commonly today, broadband is delivered over coaxial cable or HFC (hybrid fiber-coax) and can have peak speeds of up to 300 Mbps with upload speeds of up to 30 Mbps (sometimes more, sometimes less) thanks to the achievements of DOCSIS technology.
Today’s broadband over fiber is a leaner, meaner machine. Delivered over faster, more reliable fiber optic cables, broadband over fiber often has higher peak speeds (up to 1 Gbps or higher), sometimes symmetric download and upload speeds, and lower risk of outages.
That said, it’s still broadband. Broadband, no matter how it’s delivered, is a “shared” service that pools bandwidth between users and can see service degradation during peak utilization periods. Further, broadband services come with no guarantees on uptime, bandwidth, latency, or much else for that matter. As a result, they’re cheaper services that are less often utilized as primary connections for an enterprise facility.
What Is Dedicated Fiber Internet?
The delivery method for both dedicated fiber internet and broadband over fiber are the same – fiber-optic cables. Broadband over fiber, however, shares the fiber infrastructure with other users. Dedicated fiber internet does not, providing you guaranteed bandwidth with a connection that’s provisioned specifically for you, as opposed to a “best effort” connection where you’re sharing bandwidth with other users. Further, dedicated fiber, often referred to as dedicated internet access or “DIA” for short, comes with various Service Level Agreements, where the ISP will commit to guaranteeing uptime, bandwidth, latency, jitter, packet loss, and potentially even more. Finally, dedicated fiber will come with improved support resolution paths and timelines relative to broadband. Add all of this up, and you can see why most enterprises opt for dedicated fiber as their primary connectivity option of choice at sites of any importance.
For all of these service concessions however, dedicated fiber can cost quite a bit more than broadband, and typically requires a 12-month+ contractual commitment.
Broadband Over Fiber vs Dedicated Fiber Internet: Key Differences
For business customers, the broadband over fiber vs. dedicated fiber decision needs to consider three variables – bandwidth, mission criticality, and pricing.
With broadband over fiber, you share services with other businesses (and possibly private homes) in your area. This means that the delivery speed may not always align with the bandwidth levels you anticipated when you purchased service or the advertised “max speeds available in your area.” The more users hogging bandwidth, the more the speed drops due to the shared cable infrastructure. However, broadband delivered with fiber-optic transport usually delivers a reliable connection from an up/down standpoint.
With dedicated fiber, the speed you subscribe to is what you get. Guaranteed. Peak-traffic periods won’t affect you. The contracted speed and throughput are dedicated to a single customer (you), so the performance is ultra-consistent. There’s no risk of the line being oversubscribed, so it keeps the same up/down reliability.
Broadband over fiber internet is not a great match for intensive or “mission-critical” applications with high-performance demands. Broadband service, even delivered over fiber, is significantly more likely to face an outage than a dedicated service, and does not have great support paths available when outages occur. However, broadband is perfect for general internet tasks like web browsing, email, and streaming. This means a wide range of users, including residential and small business clients (SMBs), could be perfectly happy with broadband over fiber’s performance. It’s also a common “failover” option (or redundant connection) for enterprise clients when your primary connection faces an outage or issue.
Dedicated fiber internet, on the other hand, is designed for the intense user with mission-critical applications. Dedicated services offer significantly more consistency around uptime, latency, jitter, or packet loss, and have significantly better support paths available if services degrade. As a result, enterprises with more mission-critical applications running over their connectivity typically opt for a dedicated service as their primary connectivity option. Think payment processing, Voice over IP (VoIP), video conferencing, and other web-based services that cannot go down or “hurry up and wait” during peak periods.=
Due to its shared infrastructure and lack of support, broadband over fiber is the more economical choice. As dedicated fiber internet is guaranteed to a specific customer at specific bandwidth level, the price per Mbps you’ll see is typically higher and will differ based on the level of competition at the site. Other variables can impact service pricing as well, and you can see here for a pricing guide we recently published on dedicated internet access (with some detail on broadband as well).
How Do I Choose?
If you’re a small business with light-to-moderate internet usage, or an enterprise customer in the market for a viable and cost-effective failover connection, broadband over fiber will likely be more than adequate. It’s reliable, and the issue of peak-period congestion is unlikely to impact you.
For larger enterprises or locations with heavy connectivity demands or mission criticality, the additional expense of a dedicated fiber line is your best bet for primary connectivity. Do you need help finding the right carrier and service for your business needs? The Lightyear Telecom Operating System is designed to help you. The Lightyear platform allows you to easily evaluate dedicated and broadband options at any site around the globe objectively, and is backed by the best dataset in the industry.
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