SUPERFAST BROADBAND. A technology guide

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1 1 SUPERFAST BROADBAND

2 2 The world of broadband is littered with jargon and technical terms. This guide is intended to help small businesses and charities who want to upgrade their broadband connection through Super Connected Portsmouth s connection voucher scheme understand what is available. SUPERFAST BROADBAND We will go through what is meant by speed and reliability and how to understand what your organisation may need when selecting a broadband service. We will also describe all the technologies that you can choose from under the scheme and suggest questions you should ask your supplier.

3 Speed Speed 3 The speed of your internet connection is measured in Megabits per second (Mbit/s or Mbps you will see the term shortened in several ways). You will see terms such as superfast and ultrafast but there is no official fixed definition for these terms. Portsmouth City Council considers a superfast connection to be of 20 Mbps or higher but this is dependent of the type of broadband service you select. Superfast broadband is the next generation of broadband, providing a faster and more reliable service. To give you a comparison traditional ADSL broadband is much slower, typically around 5Mbps. Superfast broadband is superfast thanks to fibre optic cable and other technologies, such as wireless. ADSL SUPERFAST BROADBAND

4 4 Speed Download speed Upload speed Symmetric connection Download speed is the rate at which data (including s, web pages, video etc.) can be transferred from another network (or the Internet) to your end of a broadband connection. Upload speed is the rate at which data can be transferred from your business to another network (or the Internet). Upload speed may be the same or different from the download speed depending on which service you select. Most consumer services have much lower upload speeds you should consider carefully how much upload capacity your business needs. A symmetric connection will offer you identical upload and download speeds. For some businesses a guaranteed upload speed will be more important than a faster download speed, for example if you are sending large files to clients on a regular basis. SUPERFAST BROADBAND

5 Asymmetric connection Speed checker Speed 5 An asymmetric service will usually offer you a considerably lower upload speed than download speed and will typically cost less. Think about how your business uses the connection and whether having a fast upload speed is important to you Mbps If you know your current connection speed this will give you a good starting point to consider what speed you want to upgrade to. There are plenty of free sites you can use to help you check your current speed. Use your search engine to search for online speed checker. If you want to predict what speeds you might be able to get if you upgrade, there are a number of commercially available speed checkers where you can input your phone number or address to see what the estimated performance of your broadband connection would be, download and upload. These are normally offered on the websites of service providers.

6 6 Reliability Reliability The reliability of your connection will depend on if it a contended or uncontended service. SUPERFAST BROADBAND

7 Contended/Shared Service Reliability 7 A contended connection is shared between multiple businesses. You will only get the advertised download and upload speeds when there are no other users sharing the service. Ask your supplier about the contention ratio. The higher the contention ratio, the larger the number of people that are using the service at any one time. A contention ratio of 20:1 means that at peak time twenty other users could be using the same capability and so each user experiences a 20th of quoted download and upload speeds in a busy period. In reality, users aren t often all making heavy demands on the service at the same time. A shared service can be perfectly acceptable and cost far less than a similar uncontended service. The fact that the service is contended will be identified in the terms and conditions of contract.

8 8 Reliability Uncontended/Dedicated Service A dedicated or uncontended connection will provide your business with the full quoted download and upload speeds at all times, which you can choose how to configure. The price of uncontended services is usually higher as the costs of provision are not shared with other users. An uncontended service will often come with a detailed service level agreement that specifies quality of service for reliability and maintenance. You need to consider how important it is to your business to have certainty of the speeds available to you and whether it is worth the additional cost. Some more expensive broadband connections may offer lower speeds but also a lower contention ratio, potentially making them more suitable for multiple employees than cheaper connections with higher speeds. SUPERFAST BROADBAND

9 How do I know what I need? How do I know what I need? 9 Before you start speaking to suppliers you should ask yourself about your current and future business needs.

10 10 How do I know what I need? Speed Reliability SUPERFAST BROADBAND yhow many people will use the connection at the same time? yhow often do you need to download large files (digital drawings, videos, images)? yhow often do you need to upload large files? The higher the answer to each of these questions the faster the speed you might require. It isn t all about speed; it s getting the right quality of service too. yhow important is it that you can access a high speed connection all the time, or doesn t it matter if it s slower at certain times of the day? yhow important is the reliability of your service and the quality of technical support offered?

11 Using your connection How do I know what I need? 11 Think about the kind of work that your broadband connection will need to support. Do you intend to use any of the following services regularly? yrun telephone services over the broadband (Voice Over IP) yvideo Conferencing ystaff accessing files in the office from home or on the road yusing services in the cloud i.e. backup and storage services or accessing remote software yworking with clients on designs/documents in real time yother applications that I need to be available all the time (make a list to remind yourself) The more of these services that you choose, the faster the speed and greater the reliability you need.

12 12 How do I know what I need? Support Cost Business broadband lines do sometimes fail and you ll want prompt service to get you back up and running again quickly. y How important is prompt support to your business operations? Finally you will need to think about how much you are prepared to pay for the monthly service. The Connection Voucher will pay towards the cost of getting you connected, but you have to meet the ongoing service charges. Services which offer greater speeds and reliability are often more expensive although there are always exceptions in the market so you may find suppliers that offer different pricing. Remember that faster speeds and greater reliability are reflected in the monthly cost you will pay. Making a careful assessment of your business needs will help you make a package more cost effective. SUPERFAST BROADBAND

13 What service should I pick? What service should I pick? 13 When you apply for a connection voucher we will ask you about the kind of service you have now and what service you want to upgrade to. There are two possible answers; Next Generation Access or Business Grade.

14 14 What service should I pick? Next Generation Access (NGA) service Business Grade service SUPERFAST BROADBAND NGA describes a significant upgrade to the broadband to allow substantial improvements in broadband speeds and quality of service. Typically, NGA solutions will be lower cost than Business Grade and are likely to be both contended and asymmetric. To use a connection voucher, if you choose one of these products the minimum speed you need to contract with your supplier is 30Mbps either upload or download. If you already have an NGA connection at or above 30Mbps you should contact us to find out the minimum speed requirement that would be eligible for a Connection Voucher (see contact details on page 20). There is no standard definition of Business Grade, but characteristics of a Business Grade line will be that it is often symmetric, always uncontended and will have a robust service level agreement from your supplier. Typically, Business Grade solutions will cost more, reflecting the higher quality and reliability of the service offered. In order to use a connection voucher, the minimum speed you need to contract with your supplier is 20Mbps upload and download. Remember that if you already have a Business Grade connection and wish to use a voucher to upgrade your service, your new connection must offer you at least double the speed (e.g. from 10 to 20 Mbps or from 20 to 40, and so on) if you choose one of these products.

15 What products are available? What products are available? 15 The suppliers you talk to will have product names for their technologies that may not be exactly the same as the wording below. You can use these definitions when speaking to suppliers to help you understand which category their product falls into.

16 16 What products are available? Product Type of service Next Generation Access (NGA) Next Generation Access (NGA) Description Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) An optical fibre runs all of the way from the provider s network to your premises. Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) An optical fibre is run to a street side cabinet, the additional expense of running fibre right up to a user s premise is avoided. However the existing copper telephone lines that are used for the final connection to the premises from the cabinet have lower capacity than fibre. Speeds depend on how far you are from the cabinet: the speed will be lower the further away you are. On demand products are offered for an additional charge when a supplier usually offers FTTC to customers as a standard product rather than FTTP (because of the high deployment costs), or if FTTC would not provide a sufficiently fast service to meet an individual customer s needs. Charges are often considerable and are payable upfront. The original cable TV networks used fibre optic links from the network to street side distribution points and then coaxial copper lines to users premises. Coaxial copper lines have a higher capacity over longer distances than traditional twisted pair copper telephone lines. Ethernet is the communications protocol (a kind of language) used by most wired office networks. You may be familiar with it in your office wiring systems. In the past, connections to the external broadband network have used other communications protocols which need both equipment to translate protocols (to let different parts of the system talk to each other) and add extra operational costs for network providers. EFM allows the Ethernet protocol to be conveniently transmitted over the existing copper telephone lines and optical fibre links, and can reduce costs to users Fibre on Demand Next Generation Access (NGA) Next Generation Access (NGA) Next Generation Access (NGA) Cable (DOCSIS 3.0) SUPERFAST BROADBAND Ethernet First Mile (EFM)

17 Mobile Product Type of service Description Mobile telephone technologies can provide high maximum download speeds. However, its reliability and performance varies with the location, environment, the number of other users and the available radio spectrum. NB: Mobile connections are not eligible under the Connection Voucher Scheme as costs of connection typically fall below the minimum grant level. Mobile technologies can however be used as part of another solution (see Fixed Wireless Access). Wireless links can be used instead of copper or optical fibre links to connect users from a wireless base station. Usually the base station is mounted on a mast or building at your premises. The connection s performance is designed to be more stable and predictable than mobile because user equipment is in a fixed location. Often FWA uses mobile technologies adapted for fixed operations. A leased line is a copper or fibre connection providing a data service with a Service Level Agreement (which may cover download speeds, repair times and so on). Depending upon the type of service ordered, the sockets, connectors and their electrical characteristics might differ from the usual Ethernet components that you may be familiar with An Ethernet leased line can be connected to existing office-based Ethernet networks without additional protocol translation equipment. It presents an Ethernet interface to the user. Microwave is a kind of leased line that uses a radio link rather than copper or fibre. Generally it requires a line of sight from the network location to an antenna dish mounted on or near your premises. What products are available? 17 Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) Leased line Business Grade Leased line Ethernet Microwave Business Grade Business Grade

18 18 What should I ask my supplier? What should I ask my supplier? SUPERFAST BROADBAND Now you ve worked out what you need from your connection you can speak to suppliers to find a package which suits you. When you speak to suppliers you may want to ask the following questions: ywhat speeds can I expect? yis it a contended or uncontended service? If it is contended, ask about the contention ratio ydoes your service offer symmetric or asymmetric download and upload speeds? yis the service NGA or Business Grade? ywill the service meet the step change requirements of the connection voucher scheme? ywhat Service Level Agreement can I expect? ycan the broadband package be scaled up as my business grows?

19 I m still confused! I m still confused! 19 There are several independent sources of advice available on the internet such as: Sam Knows: and OFCOM: Many other commercial broadband comparison sites can be found by using a search engine. It s worth doing some homework before you talk to potential suppliers. Most importantly, talk to the suppliers. If you re not sure about any of the services offer, they will be able to explain them to you in detail. Remember that they will be providing you with a monthly service for at least six months, so you need to be confident that they will be able to provide you with what you need. If you re still confused you can us on or call us on Please note that Portsmouth City Council is not able to recommend a particular technical solution or supplier but we can help you to understand your business needs so that you can select a suitable supplier.

20 20 I m still confused! SUPERFAST BROADBAND

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