Broadband options for small businesses

Connectivity is key for any business. Whether you’re a startup, upstart or more established, you’re going to need a fast connection to reach customers, service clients and promote your wares.

With the many advantages brought by cloud computing and moving to the cloud, a good broadband connection is even more important.

But what are your options?

Today we’ll outline the various small business broadband technologies, what they are, what they can do and the advantages they bring.

Next time, we’ll explore options for larger or more established businesses.

Broadband technology options

What are the different types of small business broadband available in the UK?

  1. Fibre broadband
  2. ADSL
  3. Cable
  4. Mobile broadband
  5. Satellite broadband

Let’s take a quick look at each of them.

Fibre broadband

Fibre broadband is very common within the UK. You’ll see it advertised as ‘Superfast’ or ‘Ultrafast’ broadband, depending on where you look.

There are two types of fibre broadband, FTTP and FTTC. Both use the BT Openreach network to deliver the service even if you use another provider.

Even if you currently pay TalkTalk, Sky, Plusnet or someone else, they will likely be using the BT Openreach network. That’s why you’ll see BT Openreach engineers arrive when something goes wrong.

FTTP fibre broadband

FTTP means Fibre To The Property. Fibre optic cable is used all the way up to your property to deliver the fastest broadband around.

FTTP is described as ‘Ultrafast broadband’ and is capable of speeds up to around 1Gbps (1 gigabyte per second). That’s fast!

Fibre optic allows signals to travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) and is currently the fastest speed known to man.

Fibre itself is capable of much more, but the core networks are gradually hitting gigabit speeds.

That’s plenty enough for most small businesses!

FTTC fibre broadband

FTTC means Fibre to The Cabinet. This is the most common form of broadband right now.

FTTC is described as ‘Superfast broadband’ and is capable of speeds up to 76Mbps (75 megabytes per second).

This option uses fibre optic in the network all the way up to the BT street cabinet (those green boxes you see on the street everywhere). The final leg of the journey is taken by the old copper wire that used to carry your phone line.

Copper is not capable of high speeds, so FTTC is much slower than FTTP. The advantage is that it’s much more readily available.

FTTC fibre broadband offers decent speeds but the further you are away from your nearest street cabinet, the slower your connection.

ADSL broadband

ADSL is legacy technology and has been replaced by ADSL2+, but everyone still calls it ADSL. It uses the old copper telephone line all the way to your closest BT exchange.

ADSL, Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, used to be the most common type of broadband around. But it has been replaced by FTTC and FTTP.

ADSL is slow by modern standards, only capable of up to around 24Mbps.

We would recommend ADSL only for businesses who cannot use any other form of broadband as it’s slow and can be expensive for what it is.

Cable broadband

Cable broadband uses a completely separate network to fibre. It is run by Virgin Media and covers a little over 51% of the country.

Cable companies set up their own network back in the 1980s and 90s using coaxial (coax) cable instead of copper. They had the advantage of setting up a brand new network where BT grew theirs from the 1890s.

This meant they were able to set up a faster network from the beginning.

Cable broadband uses coaxial cable from the street cabinet to your property. Coax is capable of much higher speeds than copper, which is why cable broadband is faster.

Some cable connections in cities use FTTP, but these are not that widespread yet.

Cable broadband is capable of speeds of up to 900Mbps, which is fast enough for most smaller businesses.

Other business broadband options

While BT and its FTTP and FTTC broadband offers over 90% coverage, rural or coastal businesses can still be left with older, slower connections.

If you don’t have the option for fixed-line broadband, you still have options.

Mobile broadband

Mobile broadband uses the mobile phone network to deliver broadband as well as phone services. As long as you have a good mobile signal, you can access decent broadband speeds via the 4G and 5G network.

Mobile broadband is capable of up 100Mbps on 4G, and 1Gbps on 5G depending on signal strength.

It uses a dongle to provide access to computers, routers and laptops or you can tether a phone to a laptop to get access.

Mobile broadband is a viable alternative to fixed-line broadband but you have to watch what you’re buying. Many contracts have data caps, an upper limit of how much you can use the connection.

It’s worth shopping around to ensure you get a contract with enough data or unlimited data to avoid extra expense.

Satellite broadband

If you can’t access fixed-line broadband and don’t have a strong mobile signal, what are your options?

Satellite broadband is the only viable option in this situation. It’s expensive and includes data caps but is available anywhere in the country. As long as you can position a satellite dish with a clear view of the sky, you can access satellite broadband.

The downsides are that it’s expensive. It also has data caps and suffers from latency or lag.

Latency is the delay between you moving your mouse on a website and seeing it on screen. Because of the distances involved with satellites, it isn’t unusual to experience small delays.

Elon Musk’s Starlink should address that, but it won’t be ready until late 2022.

So those are your main options for accessing broadband as a small business. There is plenty to choose from but much depends on where you’re based and what’s available in your area.

As always, you can talk to our friendly team here at Cloud Heroes and we’ll help you to find out what’s available to you and which service will best suit your needs now and for your future growth plans.

Call us on 01225 776555 or contact us here.

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