Connectivity Options

Onega can provide a whole range of Internet and private circuit connections depending on your needs and budget.

This is a summary of the main types of connection that we can provide along with an overview of the attributes of each. If you would like to discuss the applicability or availability of any of these to your business please email or call us directly on 0207 536 6350 and we'll be happy to discuss this with you.

Modem Connectivity:  This allows for narrowband (slow by today's standards) connections but for some circumstances like for POS devices it is still used and is a very reliable fall-back if needed. Largely obsoleted by newer technologies now.

ISDN:  This is also a dial-up based service like using a modem but quicker, at 64Kbps per channel vs a max of 56K on a modem, and has the benefit that dial-up connections are made in a fraction of a second. So, to make a transaction like a credit card authorisation, will be much quicker than when using a modem. You can also bond two or more channels to have speeds of 128K, 256K, 512Kbps etc.  The downside is that this uses multiple simultaneous calls so racks up your phone bill e.g. a 512K connection would use 8 simultaneous calls and you'd also have to pay for 8 line rentals to be able to do this. So, for basic Internet connectivity, ISDN is now largely replaced by newer broadband technologies which are faster and cheaper. ISDN is still used for telephone systems as it is very robust and reliable, as well as giving fast call setup and crystal clear call quality. In the UK, ISDN is available as ISDN2e which provides one box on the wall and allows for two simultaneous calls, or ISDN30 which allows for between 8 and 30 channels of ISDN. For phone systems ISDN is probably the most installed technology and, thanks to its reliability and quality of service delivery, will be around for many years to come.

ADSL:  This is the most common broadband connection available at the time of writing though faster services are rolling out continuously (see below). The speeds that ADSL gives in the UK and Europe were initially 512Kbps, 1Mbps or 2Mbps when they were first introduced, but these days are typically 'up to' 8Mbps.  The exact speed you get depends on how far you are from the telephone exchange and the quality of your phone lines in the ground. It is important to remember that ADSL stands for 'Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line'; the most important word here being 'asynchronous'.  This means that the download speed might be around 8Mbps but the upload speed can range from 256kbps (0.25 Mbps to 0.7Mbps) . Thus you can download about 10 times as fast as you can upload, which suits most normal use like web browsing where you send a small request for a web page and get a big and media rich page back. However the limitations of this are felt if you use the upload capacity a lot. For example, one VOIP call will typically take 70Kbps (or 64Kpbs or less if at lower quality) so if you have four or more simultaneous calls from an office you are likely to have problems. As you will too, if someone else in the office sends a big email with attachments out, unless you have careful management (Quality of Service or QOS control on a router or firewall) to stop this being a problem.

ADSL2+:  This is a newer variant of ADSL which allows for higher speeds to be achieved. As with simple ADSL, the speed you get will depend on how far you are from your telephone exchange; if you are not far away then you may well get close to the highest speed possible which is 24Mpbs downstream and around 1Mbps upstream. More and more Exchanges are now ADSL2+ capable so if you are currently on an 8Mbps service then it may be possible to upgrade at no cost. It is also possible to bond multiple ADSL2+ lines to create higher bandwidth circuits overall but, on the whole, if this is required there may be better options (the cost goes up a lot more than the bandwidth availability because of the extra hardware, setup and monitoring needed).

Annex M:  This is another variant of ADSL2+ typically and is popular where the connection is being used for VOIP (Voice over IP or IP telephony) connectivity. Annex M comes at a modest cost premium but allows for provision of higher upload speeds in exchange for the sacrifice of some download speed. When you are using a voice call you are using the same amount of bandwidth both ways, so in order to be able to make more simultaneous calls at once it is important to have plenty of upstream bandwidth. The same would go for organisations who are running a VPN between two offices with IPSEC between two firewalls on an ADSL service. In this case the fastest speed that any transfer could be done at would be limited to the speed of the connectivity at both ends, and the weakest link of the chain would be the slower upload speed of the circuit. With the use of Annex M it is possible to increase upload speeds close to 3.3 Mbps, which is more than double those of a normal ADSL2+ Circuit. Annex M is also sometimes referred to as G992.5 which is the ITU standard for how this is implemented.

Engineered or Converged ADSL Broadband:  This is a term given to a number of service guaranteed DSL products. Where VOIP is deployed there are specific services that can be subscribed to, where an ADSL (or FTTC) service is provided and very carefully engineered throughout, so that the path from your router (often a premium Cisco or Draytek unit) will be configured with QOS and specific programming to prioritise your voice traffic and allow it to be traceable throughout the path from your endpoints across the data network and onto the telecoms networks. There are only a small number of providers that do this well and economically but, where deployed, it allows for high quality of service delivery to a level that a business can depend on for its calls. The reason for the importance of this level of attention to detail is that if you are browsing web pages and your Internet connection drops, you may not notice, as it will likely reconnect again before another page link is clicked on, but if you are on a voice call and something happens to either disconnect the call or to constrain your bandwidth then you will suffer either a disconnected phonecall or jitter and poor voice quality; neither of which are acceptable for business (or personal) communications.

What else you need to know about all variants of ADSL:

  • All the ADSL based services are normally very economic (relatively low cost and affordable) but are 'best effort' services whereby they will not have a specific SLA (Service Level Agreement) for speed or availability.
  • In the first 10 days after installation, your home or office router will communicate with the equipment at the telephone exchange (called the DSLAM - Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer) and try various speeds to settle down at the fastest speed that a connection can be reliably made at. This is commonly called the training period and you'll notice short breaks in connectivity while this is done but these will become fewer and fewer over that period until the final speed is settled at. It is important to leave your router on all the time (24/7) for this initial period. If there are any changes over time then it may be necessary to trigger a rerun of the training; for example if the copper cable in the ground is damaged or degraded by weather, if work is done on nearby telecoms cables or if you notice more disconnection incidents than normal.
  • ADSL routers must be plugged into a telephone extension in your house via a microfilter, which is a small connection box around the size of a box of matches (and sometimes built into the BT socket if you have one phone socket and one smaller DSL socket). Every extension off your ADSL-enabled phone line must also have an ADSL microfilter attached if there is a phone plugged into it.  Otherwise you will notice symptoms like your internet cutting off when the phone rings or unreliable or slow connections. An ADSL router is often supplied with a microfilter but if you need more Onega can supply these (as can your local computer shop or even large supermarkets) at a price of around £5 each.
  • ADSL is a contended service, so if you are using one of these connections you need to be mindful of this. Contention (the number of people that share a line) can range between 2:1 for a very good business connection to 60:1 for a cheap home connection. This is important to understand and also that not all Internet providers are the same. There is the speed of your connection to the local telephone exchange from your router and then the speed available beyond that, and the overall real world speed that you get is the result of the least of the two of these speeds. It is also important to bear in mind the type of user and traffic that a particular provider caters for in its service. For example if you are connected with a provider with lots of home users (for example we have noticed this with AOL and BT Internet Services) then you may notice things slowing down in the afternoons and evenings when children get home from school and when media services are consumed more; this will be due to contention. The Internet is a complex network and sometimes the problem might also be how busy the web and media servers are at the other end. Thus the difference between two services which might look similar on the face of it could be very wide when it comes to quality of engineering / technical delivery and also customer support (e.g. the low-cost providers will often make you wait in a queue for quite a while before your call is answered and they may be offshore etc.)
  • There are many packages of ADSL / home / business broadband offered. These will generally fall into two categories: those limited by download volume and those limited by service throttles. Beware that both of these might be called 'unlimited' when actually they are anything but that. The way that ADSL is able to work and offer cost-effective connectivity is that it is a shared service. If everyone used all the available bandwidth all the time then the whole service would crawl along for everyone. In reality you only spend some of your time downloading as, typically, you will click on a website, it will load, then you view it and later click another link etc.  With the two categories of connection it is helpful to understand their attributes. The ones that give you a quota of Gigabytes a month to download will normally provide unfettered access and the best speeds. However once you hit the limit that is in your package, then you either have to pay per Gigabyte after that (in the same way that you might get a number of minutes bundled in with a mobile phone package), or you might need to top up before you can download any more (a hard limit). The excess charges can typically be £1 per gigabyte so it is important to monitor your usage. Normal office use of web + email does not use much bandwidth so 15 Gbytes a month would do a small home office or 5 man office on the whole. If you use media streaming (e.g. BBC iPlayer or Sky Player etc.) or remote backup then this can use large amounts of bandwidth. It is much more cost-effective to have a package with enough data to cover your needs than one too low. For example, the price difference between a package with 10Gbytes per month or 100 Gbytes per month may only be £10 or £20 whereas at £1 per Gbyte, overage could be expensive. The other way unlimited packages might be provided is on the basis of fixed monthly cost. Here you will only ever pay X per month, but there is 'rate shaping' applied to the lines so that, for example, Torrents and other Peer-to-Peer file sharing systems (which are often illegal and a very quick way to have your computer catch a virus) will be deprioritised or limited, as may streaming media etc.  If you use more than 'fair use' your connection will be moved to higher contention pools (the 'naughty corner' of a network) and you will get very slow Internet performance for everything. The reason all this is done is so that ISPs clients who have normal use patterns do not get disadvantaged by particularly heavy users, using more than their fair share of bandwidth - which is a valuable resource. Some providers have novel ways of dealing with these issues like charging more for use of a connection and data transfers in the busy day but being nearly free overnight when there is much less load on a network. If all this is confusing, don't worry; that is why Onega is here and, based on your needs, we can navigate the ISP waters and help you find the connection that is right for you.

Satellite Internet :   Once the preserve of shipping and luxury yachts with INMARSAT connections and the like, now there is a new generation of satellite broadband services which will give ADSL a good run for its money. These require a dish to be installed on a roof, or in a garden within line of sight of the satellite in order to work, but can then provide up to 20Mbps of bandwidth which is plenty for a home office user or business in the countryside etc. The ongoing monthly costs are close to ADSL costs but there are lower limits on the amount of data that you can download within your package so they are not ideal for video streaming of films etc. You also have to pay several hundred pounds for the dish and installation at the beginning. If you are in the countryside where there is either no ADSL or only very poor ADSL available then this might be your best bet for a fast and reliable connection.

Public WiFi Hotspots:  Restaurants, coffee shops, airport lounges, stations, hotels etc. now often provide free (or paid if they are mean) wireless hotspots. If you can make use of these when you are on the go it can allow for good connection without using any other quotas up on mobiles etc. The staff will often be able to help you connect if you have difficulty and equally you should ask them if you can't connect as it might be that their system is temporarily down in which case you don't want to spend ages trying to make it work if it is a futile exercise.

FTTC Fibre or Cable:  In areas where it is available, an FTTC Internet circuit gives the best possible, generally available and affordable broadband connection for home or business. While this is commonly called Fibre broadband there is no fibre fed to your house. FTTC stands for 'Fibre To The Cabinet' by which is meant the street box where your phone lines come from. One street box normally serves a number of streets in each area (if it is very long however, the same street might be fed from multiple boxes). The cabling of the UK (and international) telephone networks is made in a similar way to the road network that is made up of motorways, A roads and B roads etc.  So with the phone network there are the local telephone exchanges, regional super exchanges and national interconnection exchanges. Each local exchange will have bundles of cables running to each of the street boxes, and from there, cables that go to every building. With ADSL, your Internet connection is from your house to your telephone exchange, so the closer you are the faster the link, up to the maximum capability of the technology. With FTTC, fibre optic cable is run from the telephone exchange to the street cabinet, and equipment installed therein which allows for Internet connections to be made to individual houses or flats. Because this run is typically less than a hundred metres, much higher speeds can be run. Speeds available in the UK for FTTC for download / upload are typically 40/2 (40Mbps down and 2 Mbps up), 40/10, or 80/20 - the latter being available only more recently than the original release of FTTC. Speeds of 80Mbps down and up to 20Mbps down allow for high definition TV and movie streaming, video conferencing, and many simultaneous voice calls at once. 

If you consider the bandwidth needed for one high quality VOIP call is around 70Kpbps, then one 20Mbps uplink capacity line could support close to 300 simultaneous VOIP calls. The equivalent ISDN connections would need 10 ISDN30 lines which would have a line rental of circa £3500 a month. Considering that the FTTC circuit is likely to cost between £30 and £80 a month for a business connection you can see why this is compelling if it is available in your area. On that subject, it is important to note that FTTC is in the process of roll-out at the moment and is slowly being deployed in more areas. It is possible to use broadband availability checker websites to see if it is available in a particular locality or on a particular street. Just because an Exchange is FTTC enabled, or due to be, it does not mean that it will be available for you. The reason for this is that each street box has to be upgraded, which costs around £50,000 to do and so will only be done where there is enough density to make this worthwhile. There also has to be space to put in one of the larger street boxes (you'll see FTTC street boxes as large green boxes which are more angular and nearly double the height of a standard street box) and not everyone wants one of those on their street.  In commercial parts of cities where many businesses will have leased lines already, BT Openreach, who provide the FTTC infrastructure, may not deem there to be enough demand (or if you are cynical, they may not want to lose the higher cost leased line subscriptions). Thus, if you are in an area and street where you can get FTTC then great, otherwise it is probably best that we discuss the other options available; what is best for you and our opinion on when FTTC might come to you. We do not have a crystal ball but can asses balance of probabilities with the benefit of experience. One final note on FTTC is that being an economic connection like ADSL, it is not delivered with the same high service levels of the more traditional leased lines (below) but we can get them with enhanced service and care levels to ensure that fixes are done as priorities if there are ever faults on the circuit. The general reliability of these lines is very good as the distance of the copper phone lines to the local cabinet box is pretty short and that is the part that most of the problems occur on.

Leased Lines - Fibre, Copper and EFM:  These are the traditional corporate internet connections and can give very high levels of reliability (high SLAs) and speeds beyond those possible on low cost ADSL or FTTC connections. Leased Line speeds currently range from 10Mbps (Mega Bits Per Second) to 10Gbps in speed depending on what you need and budgets etc. The entry level to this type of connection is the EFM (Ethernet First Mile line which typically will give 10-14 Mbps and is a (relatively) low cost form of leased line and whose bandwidth might not sound like a lot of bandwidth but it goes a long way - especially as it is the same speed up and down and with 1:1 contention.

Next up are the copper or fibre delivered lines. These give very good speed and are run on a dedicated line to the local exchange (or POP - Point of Presence). There are two elements to the cost and technical make up of these circuits which are the bearer and the committed data rate. The bearer is the raw fibre line that is installed in your premises, along with the associated equipment to terminate the fibre and convert it to an Ethernet connection that you can easily use and connect to a firewall. There are different grades of fibre and the ones that take the very highest levels of bandwidth for the longest distances and their associated kit will cost more than the standard fibre runs. The base speed of a fibre will usually be 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps. The committed data rate (CDR) is the amount of bandwidth that is opened through the fibre (or throttled to in reality). Thus you can install a 100Mbps fibre bearer but only provision (and pay for) 10 / 20 / 50 / 70 Mbps as you need. Generally the best cost ratio comes if you use all the speed so a 10/10 100/100 or 1000/1000 circuit will give you the best bang for your buck, but having, say a 100Mbps fibre line with 20 or 50Mbps might give you the performance you need now and also the ability to turn the speed up to the full speed in a matter of hours or days. 4 Hour SLAs are typical on fibre lines and the engineering means that they will rarely go wrong. If you need a connection to be super resilient, then it can be installed with a feature known as RO2 Diverse Routing. This is where an Internet connection into a building will be routed by two different routes and entry points and to two different exchanges. Thus if workmen cut off one cable while digging and doing street work, your connection will be OK and rerouted within seconds on the other line. This does come at a cost of having to have two bearers but for financial institutions and traders like hedge funds or investment management companies who must have very fast connectivity, this may be essential connectivity for continuity and to minimise downtime risks.

Onega also Operates TBWNET which is our own network around Trinity Buoy Wharf which provides very fast Internet to tenants onsite; effectively giving the benefits of a full leased line with Gigabit cabling but at the cost of a much more economic connection. We do this largely on the basis of being a good neighbour so it provides very good value.  Typically tenants pay about 1% of the cost that they would pay in a Regis managed office.

Typical costs of leased lines range from £200-400 a month for EFM circuits and roughly £350 to £1000 a month (or beyond for super quick links) ex VAT for fibre lines. Exact costs of installation and monthly charges can be quoted based on postcodes which allow for distance from exchange etc. to be calculated. If you sign up for a service over a three year period, then install costs are typically reduced to 0 and are progressively more, the shorter the term. Minimum contracts are normally 12 months for leased lines (unless you choose to go for a 2 or 3 year deal) and notice periods are typically 90 days outside of this.

Wireless Internet (WIMAX):  This can be a useful backup or alternate to traditional leased fibre lines in areas where there is good coverage available and for similar costs.  This involves installation of an antenna on a roof and having a reasonable line of sight (or unobstructed path) to to the location of the wireless POP. It gives good speed and reliability - up to 1Gbps can economically be provided this way (10 to 100Mbps are more common though).

3G and 4G Internet (and in due course 5G and 6G):  Mobile phones now have internet connectivity built in and most airtime packages (something else Onega can help with) will include an amount of internet data transfer quota, typically 500 Mbytes to 2 or 3 Gbytes a month. This is plenty for web browsing from your phone and also for use away from the office on a laptop from time to time if you do not go wild. Many business class laptops (eg Fujitsu, Sony and Lenovo Thinkpads) and tablet computers (like the iPad etc.) will allow you to insert a SIM card directly into the device so that you can also use the Internet natively from your mobile office. Current generation Android and iPhones can also create a local wireless zone so that you can connect a laptop to the Internet via your phone acting as a personal hotspot which can be very useful if you are somewhere without any other connection available or as a temporary fall back if an office ADSL line goes down etc.

*** Be very careful of 3G roaming data charges *** If you intend to travel a lot and will be using mobile broadband while you are away please let us know so that we can help you keep your costs down (there are certain packages and solutions that can make this much more economic) - do call Onega before you travel for our best advice on this, especially if it is outside the EU. Especially with super fast 4G connections it is very easy to run up a huge bill this way. For example if data roaming is £5 a Mbyte and you download 500 Mbytes over a weekend in somewhere not too exotic then that is a £2,500 bill to come back to. If you do get this then we can often help to negotiate it down, but best not to run it up in the first place if the alternate could be a flat rate of £20 a day while abroad.

DataCentre IP Transit Bandwidth: If you will need a lot of bandwidth for a particular application then you might well find that it can be most economically provided within a data centre. Here very fast connections can be provided and the cost is just the IP cost with minimal interconnection fees, so if the application is one of web serving or other media serving the datacentre is the best place for it. Onega run a BGP network in one of the London data centres (the same one that was used for a lof of the London 2012 Olympics broadcast network traffic) and this also benefits from UPS power, backup generators, full airconditioning and 24 hour security as well. We can also provide connectivity to other locations.

What can I get where I am?   Service availability varies by location. Onega can check to see which services you can benefit from in your area (and specific street) based on postcode or the telephone number of an existing line. There are also websites like www.samknows.com (link is external) which can let you see what is available (though note this does not show all services).

Are there any subsidies / special offers available?  In the UK there is currently a scheme called the Super Connected Cities Project / SCCP. This can provide subsidies in major cities for businesses to upgrade to fast broadband so as to facilitate business growth and adoption of new technologies and eCommerce etc. Onega can have a look to see if this can be applied to a particular requirement and if it can then it can reduce the cost of installing a line by a very useful couple of thousand pounds.

Did you know?  That copper cables can last more than 100 years (some of the original telephone cabling installed is still in use), whereas fibre optic cable degrades over time so that it typically has to be replaced after around 15-20 years.

Looking Forward - IPV4 & IPV6:  The current generation of internet connections use an addressing schema called IPV4 (addresses in the format of X.X.X.X each being a number between 1 and 254) which was introduced in 1980 / 1981 and which provides for 4.2 billion network addresses. While this seemed a huge number at the time, all these addresses have now been allocated and there is a need to introduce a new protocol and way of connecting everything in the future. The new schema is called IPV6 and will start to become commonplace over the coming years. If you are installing a new internet line from now (2014 as we type this), then it is important to check if either the line can be provided with both IPV4 and IPV6 capability now, or if the provider commits to being able to provide IPV6 connectivity over the line and equipment later on.

See also:  Related to connectivity you may also wish to read up on firewalls, and VOIP.

That's quite a range of options that we can help provide, install and support. We always try to work out what is best for a client within budgets and technical requirements. Hopefully this gives you a good overview of the options and we'd be happy to discuss any of these with you. Please do give us a call on 020 7536 6350.

Onega are also a fully registered supplier for Connection Vouchers under the UK broadband SuperConnected Cities project and subsidies so we can help get you connected to the fast lane of the Internet for free if you qualify. 

(see http://www.onega.net/blog/superconnectedbroadbandvouchers)