Business internet connections: What are your options?

by Kyle Reynolds, Principal Technical Consulting Engineer, AT&T Business

When it comes to business internet connections and determining which type of connectivity is best for your organization, it can get confusing. We’re here to guide you through the basics. 

How different types of internet connections can affect your business

To better understand how different types of internet connectivity could affect your business, it’s helpful to look at business internet connections in two ways: the type of transport (the mechanism that connects your business site to the internet) and how it’s provisioned (how it’s setup in relation to other connections in your geographical area). Please note: that within this article we are only addressing direct access of the internet into each site.


Broadband is a general term describing different types of high-speed internet connections. What are the different types of broadband? Let’s list them from slowest to fastest.


What is it? The provider sends data through a series of relay stations, before beaming the signal up to an orbiting satellite, which then beams it back down to the customer’s receiver dish, and vice versa. It’s usually the most expensive way to transfer business data.

Deeper dive: The connection through the satellite is necessarily shared and can experience significant throttling. Plus, the latency is relatively high due to the long distances the signal must travel between earth and the satellite. In some parts of the world, it is the only broadband solution currently available.

DSL internet

What is it? Internet via phone lines.

Deeper dive: DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. It consists of copper twisted-pairs (a form of copper cabling) that are typically in use for the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). These lines, however, have been enabled for higher speeds needed for data by removing filters and taps. As a minimally-shielded copper-based technology, DSL is subject to crosstalk interference from other circuits in close proximity and to interference from nearby electrical cables. DSL twisted-pairs are also somewhat susceptible to environmental factors (high humidity and precipitation; large seasonal changes in temperature).

Broadband over Power Lines (BPL)

What is it? Internet delivered via electrical power lines.

Deeper dive: This technology is in limited use. BPL allows signal transmission over electrical power lines at speeds between those of DSL and cable. It has limited availability from major carriers as it requires collaboration with local electrical power suppliers. It is also subject to the same environmental conditions that can cause power outages, especially high winds or ice storms.

Cable internet

What is it? Internet delivered over cable service via modem.

Deeper dive: This typically uses coaxial cable rather than standard copper cabling to run from the provider's local fiber cabinet to the cable modem at the destination. It allows faster speeds than DSL with less distortion. The local fiber cabinets, however, will typically share the access among all subscribers in that area, making cable access primarily a shared-access technology. It can deliver practical speeds of up to 300Mbps on a sustained basis and peak usage can go up to about 750Mbps in short bursts. In some instances, where it may be cost effective for the carrier, cable access may be delivered to the customer as a dedicated connection, with speeds that may approach 1Gbps. It’s susceptible to performance degradation over time due to environmental factors, such as high moisture or freeze-thaw cycles.

Wireless internet connections

What is it? Business internet delivered over cellular transmission.

Deeper dive: Wireless internet connections are far and away the most commonly used medium for internet access worldwide because of accessing the internet over smart phones via cellular service (4G, LTE, 5G and 6G / 7G in Japan and South Korea). For business customers, it is increasing in popularity. However, there are concerns about the reliability of the radio frequency (RF) signal strength, shared bandwidth at cellular towers, and the susceptibility to signal jamming. Performance may be affected in areas with a high degree of commercial development in close proximity, as well as by high peak usage in the area (e.g., emergencies, special events). Cost may be dependent upon available data plans from wireless carriers and the usage patterns of the business sites.


What is it? Business internet delivered over fiber optic cables where the data travels in pulses of light rather than electricity.

Deeper dive: This technology uses light transmitted inside translucent tubing to carry signals. The major backbone networks for the internet use fiber technology rather than electrical signaling and can reach transmission speeds far greater than copper-based technologies. Fiber technologies are easily adaptable to providing dedicated access over the last mile to the user, rather than shared bandwidth, making it particularly useful for businesses with high bandwidth / low latency requirements. Both consumers and businesses typically use fiber as a dedicated access to avoid competing with other users for their bandwidth, but fiber may also be delivered as a shared access. Most recent top speeds available are 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps access, with AT&T delivering even higher speeds at up to 1Tbps. As the most superior technology, Fiber internet continues to expand in footprint.

Did you know?...

Fiber is more secure than copper. Why? There are three primary reasons:

  1. Fiber is not susceptible to disruption by natural occurrences that may disrupt the electrical signal carried in a copper line (such as flooding, moisture intrusion, and lightning strikes in the cable vicinity.) This also makes fiber more secure against deliberate disruption via localized electro-magnetic bursting technologies.
  2. Fiber is not subject to undetected, unauthorized external line tapping except at specific junctions where the signal is converted back to an electrical signal before being reconverted to a fiber signal. Wiretapping is much easier with copper-based circuits. Fiber lines can be tapped by specialized technologies, but it is very difficult to keep these undetected while also grabbing an accurate and reliable sampling of the transmitted data.
  3. Crosstalk between adjacent copper lines can be limited but not always completely prevented; on shared transport services, this is a security risk for copper lines that is not an issue at all for fiber technologies.

Key benefits of Fiber

  • Highest capacity option currently available for businesses
  • Fiber is not susceptible to electromagnetic interference from other nearby installations
  • Low susceptibility to environmental conditions (moisture / temperature) or to degradation over time
  • Secure

This is a great option for…

  • Any size business customers
  • Businesses with data traffic that is sensitive to the effects of congestion or of high latency
  • Businesses with medium to high data security requirements


Shared internet access

What is it? An business internet connection where the bandwidth is shared among multiple subscribers.

Deeper dive: Providers connect multiple subscribers through a single distribution point, meaning that all subscribers are contending for their data bandwidth from within a larger stream of data. If traffic volumes are high, each user gets a lesser share of the bandwidth and might face data throttling of the bandwidth due to competition with other users. To maximize usage, carriers recognize that shared connections are not at peak usage all the time and will oversubscribe the bandwidth to try and make the most efficient use of the transmission media. Fiber and copper technologies can be provisioned as a shared connection depending on customer choice and/or availability.

Dedicated internet access

What is it? An internet connection that is not shared with any other subscriber.

Deeper dive: Providers connect only a single subscriber to a single distribution point. All bandwidth on that connection is usable only by that subscriber. No sharing, no data or speed throttling, no unpredictable reliability, no oversubscribed lines. Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) offers lower latency and often supports symmetrical download and upload speeds. It will have potentially higher costs than shared access with possible longer lead times to deploy. Fiber and copper technologies can be provisioned as a dedicated connection depending on customer choice and/or availability.

Key benefits

  • Not susceptible to congestion caused by competition with other users
  • Not susceptible to bleed-over effects causing reduced data / voice / video quality

This is a great option for…

  • Businesses with known peak usage patterns
  • Businesses with high sensitivity to congestion or to high latency effects
  • Businesses running mission critical applications such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP),large file downloads / uploads, video conferencing, streaming, media file sharing, access to cloud applications, and e-commerce hosting

Conclusion: Choosing the best business internet connection

There is no shortage of providers and options for your business internet connections. Which option is best for you? Here are 5 key questions to guide your decision-making process.

  • What speed do I need? And an even more important follow-up question is, “What speed will I soon need?”
  • How much should I invest? Having the right connectivity is crucial to your performance and growth. As you project your business’s expansion, be sure to plan on investing in high-powered connectivity in parallel with that growth. Direct internet access (DIA) over fiber is the gold standard for connectivity. Investing in it as early as you can gives you lots of room to grow and add onto your speed-of-light network.
  • How dependent are my applications and equipment on consistent network performance and reliability? If connectivity is the lifeblood of what you do, look at the most high-performing options. Also take into consideration your provider. Do they offer guaranteed performance levels? If something goes down, how quickly are they contractually obligated to get you up and running again?
  • How easy is it to get up and running? More complexity requires more time and more expertise. The greater the expertise and experience of the provider, the smoother and quicker the provisioning and installation will be.
  • How secure is my data? Connectivity is crucial for the flow of your data. But while the data flows, how safe is it? Does your provider have strong cybersecurity to defend your information in transit and where it resides in your network? 

Dedicated internet access for the win

If you’re interested in exploring direct internet access over fiber—the gold standard of connectivity—AT&T Dedicated Internet offers the fastest speeds and SLAs in the industry, the largest fiber footprint, deep experience and unparalleled expertise, and powerful security.

  • Dependability that delivers: Get world-class Service Level Agreements like 99.95% service reliability and performance objectives for data delivery, latency, and jitter and 100% uptime guaranteed - or we’ll credit your account.
  • Fastest speeds, more availability: Secure the fastest speeds (from 200Gbps to 1Tbps) to help keep your business up and running with service installation in as little as 10 days at 3 million nationwide fiber-ready locations.
  • An all-in-one provider: Access reliable dedicated internet service through a single provider with solutions for fast connectivity, site availability, wireless backup, security, voice and collaboration, devices, and more.
  • Experience and expertise: Enjoy a smooth delivery. When it comes to fiber, we introduced symmetrical speeds of 2-Gig and 5-Gig to parts of our AT&T fiber footprint reaching more than 11 million customer locations. With the introduction of our multi-gig speeds to our growing network we’re able to provide our customers a first-of-its-kind internet experience.
  • Ironclad security: Defend your data. AT&T Dedicated Internet comes with threat intelligence reports at no charge so you can analyze potential threats on your network. AT&T also offers a comprehensive portfolio of cybersecurity solutions so that you can confidently connect and intelligently protect your business.   

Discover how AT&T Dedicated Internet can deliver for your business