Technology Explained

How Enterprise Internet Connections Work

Matt Smith 18-06-2012

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Comcast, but the actual contents and opinions are the sole views of


If you have a home Internet connection you already know that bandwidth is valuable. The chances are good that if you’re at this site, reading this post, you already consume more data than the average 0.5 GB. That’s peanuts. Regularly video HD Netflix, downloading Steam games and Dropbox-ing with co-workers can easily put you at 100GB of usage per month or beyond.

But that’s nothing compared to what a corporation goes through. You may have heard of a T1 – a common enterprise connection before. But what benefits does it actually offer, and what other enterprise-grade Internet connections are available?

The Classic T1

How Enterprise Internet Connections Work t1internet

When I played multi-player games in high school I would sometimes see people bragging about their ping times. “Yeah,” they’d smugly declare, “I’m on a T1.”

The term “T1” refers to a direct connection between a location and the service provider. Today this is sometimes accomplished through the use of a fiber optic cable, though old-fashioned copper lines can also be used.


When originally implemented the T1’s capacity to handle multiple phone calls was important and the service was typically offered by a phone company. Today, the T1 has been standardized at a maximum potential bandwidth of 1.544 Mbps (as with any almost any data connection, actual speeds tend to be a bit lower due to connection overheads).  This is applied to both upload and download speeds.

These days a single T1 connection isn’t quick compared to other options, but it’s still frequently used because it is reliable, it offers decent upload speeds and it’s affordable. A set-up cost will be required to install the proper hardware at your location, but it’s generally not significant for most businesses.

Adding More T

Although the term “T1” is most recognizable in popular culture there are in fact a variety of different “T” connection options.

The T3 is among the most common. It’s an aggregate of 28 T1 circuits stringed directly to the service provider. This results in about 45 Mbps of bandwidth, which is impressive. As with a T1, this speed is available for both download and upload.


There are also various additional steps that can provide more or less bandwidth. A T5 line, for example, can provide a maximum speed of about 400 Mbps. The service is rare, however, and extremely expensive even if you can find someone willing to offer it in your area.


How Enterprise Internet Connections Work sonet

SONET stands for Synchronous Optical Networking. Unlike the older T1, SONET is a standard built from the ground up with optical networking in mind (though it’s possible for the slower standards to be implemented without optical cable). This results in transfer speeds that are much higher than what you can typically expect from T3.

The basic OC-1 standard offers speeds of up to 51.84 Mbps, which is already quicker than T3. This ramps up quickly to OC-3, which offers 155.52 Mbps, or OC-12, which offers 622 Mbps.  Extreme examples include OC-768, which has a maximum theoretical bandwidth of nearly 40 Gbps.


Pricing on options like OC-12 tend to be “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” As you might expect from the bandwidth figures, the most advanced SONET connections are only for extreme scenarios. But even the OC-1 and OC-3 solutions will easily set you back thousands if not tens of thousands monthly. There is also a significant set-up cost required to install the proper hardware and begin service.

Dedicated Ethernet Service

How Enterprise Internet Connections Work ethernet

A dedicated Ethernet connection is delivered to a location via a single Ethernet fiber optic cable. Unlike the other options listed, this service uses the same Ethernet standard used by most homes and offices to connect local computers.

There are various standards including 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 1GBps and even 10 Gbps. However, unlike T1 and SONET connections, an Ethernet connection can be easily scaled without installing new hardware or on-site service. If you need to upgrade from 10 Mbps to 20 Mbps you can do so with a phone call and, if the provider is on the ball, you’ll have the additional bandwidth within days or hours.


This connection requires a fiber optic connection, unlike T1 and some SONET connections, which can transmitted via other materials. A location without a fiber connection will have to pay to have one installed, which can be pricey. Other costs are moderate, however. Prices vary from location to location and also depend on total bandwidth usage, but general rates quoted online indicate that a 5 Mbps or 10 Mbps Ethernet DIA service can be delivered at the price of a T1.


Ethernet DIA can be wonderful if you already have a fiber optic connection but the price of installing can range from high to daunting if you don’t. T1s are reliable, affordable and frequently available but also not that quick. SONET can be extremely quick but is expensive.

What does your organization use? Have you signed up for an alternative to these options, or do you have a comment about the service you’ve purchased? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: Denby Jorgenson, Philamatos, Joe Zambon, Daniel Cortes

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  1. Richard Carpenter
    June 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    For the 150 points, T1 (E1 for almost everyone outside America) is a fiber cable line, being its main benefit of having both a high upload and download speed. It can be leased (as with most t-carrier options), which can be a major perk companies/businesses. Also, a full t1 line is a dedicated connection, and because of this is less like to "just" go down. And last but not least, T1 lines generally offer better all around support. As what other options, staying in the t-carrier connections there is T0 at 64 kBits/s to T5 at a killer 400 mBits/s. DSL is really no long a option for full office building/HQs but it is generally used as backup now a days so.... WiMax is another solution starting to be used some, but not very popular in the enterprise, as satellite is still generally the preferred access for remote offices.

    • Matt Smith
      June 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      Thanks for shedding some more light on the subject

      • Richard Carpenter
        June 22, 2012 at 4:30 am

        Most of it was in your article, I saw the post on facebook, and commented there.... then read the instructions :) But, I didn't read your article first.... probably should have :)

  2. Steven Graves
    June 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    We use 3 bonded T1's which are shared for data or phone. It is flexible so when there is no one on the phone we have an aggregated 4.5Mbps connection.

  3. Rahul Kumar
    June 19, 2012 at 8:34 am

    well i still use the old fashioned 2g connection which offers me speed of 0.2 mbps which is enough for my surfing needs in my mobile. For my laptop i switch to 3g connection, which gives me a nice speed of 2mbps which is fast enough to play multiplayer games and youtube streaming without any need to buffer. :D