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Updated Jan 03, 2024

Which Business Internet Service Type Is Right for Your Business?

Evaluate your needs, customer requirements and budget.

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Jeff Hale, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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When choosing an internet connection for your business, you must ensure it has the speed and bandwidth necessary to accommodate the number of people using the connection and what they’re doing when online.

There are seven primary internet connection types. We’ll explain how each system works to help you decide the best internet service type and speed for your business.  

Business internet service types

When it comes to business internet, organizations have seven connection types to consider. Some are extremely slow, while others are lightning fast. Here’s more about each option. 

Dial-up internet

Dial-up internet uses a standard phone line and an external or internal modem to convert an analog signal to digital. It connects to the internet with speeds ranging from 28 to 56 kilobits per second (Kbps). Traditional telephone companies still manage dial-up internet service across the country. Because the data moves along the same lines as landline telephones, phone calls and internet access can’t occur simultaneously.

If you accessed the internet in the 1990s, you probably remember the sound of dialing up and the incredibly slow speeds by today’s standards. While dial-up is the least-expensive internet service option, its usage has declined dramatically. Dial-up usage as a proportion of U.S. internet users has been under 1 percent since 2015, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

There are still some internet service providers (ISPs) that offer dial-up service. For example, NetZero and Juno provide accelerated dial-up that promises up to five times the standard dial-up speed.

However, for business purposes, connecting to the internet through a dial-up modem, even through an “accelerated” connection, is not recommended due to its exceedingly slow speeds and lack of reliability. This obsolete technology has been replaced by business broadband.

Dial-up internet pricing

$29.95 per month for dial-up service

Dial-up internet speed

Up to 56 Kbps (which is considered too slow for business use)

Satellite internet

Research-and-development funding efforts are currently pouring into satellite internet. This older technology still has the best potential to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband to every corner of the world. Satellite internet is often a good broadband service option for many businesses that operate off the beaten path.

There are three competitors in the sector:

  • Starlink: Connection speeds go up to 250 Mbps on SpaceX’s Starlink, currently the fastest on the market. So far, the company has deployed over 4,500 satellites in orbit, part of a plan to put 40,000 into orbit. These satellites will work in combination with ground transceivers to connect anyone with clear access to the sky.
  • HughesNet: Speeds on HughesNet reach 50 Mbps.
  • Viasat Business: You can get speeds of up to 150 Mbps on Viasat.

Satellite internet pricing

Around $100 per month for service, plus setup and equipment fees

Satellite internet speed

Up to 250 Mbps

Did You Know?Did you know
Some businesses weigh the pros and cons of a mobile hotspot versus a satellite connection. If you make many video calls or send large files over the internet, a mobile hotspot option offers far better latency (speed of data transfer) than a satellite connection does.

DSL internet

Digital subscriber line (DSL) introduced the general population to broadband internet in the early 2000s and remains the only high-speed internet service option for many rural and small-town businesses and homes.

While DSL runs through the same telephone lines as dial-up, it’s more than 100 times faster and, unlike dial-up, is “always on.” DSL relies on a different frequency than dial-up does, which means you can use the phone line for talk and data at the same time without interference. 

Considered an older technology by today’s standards, DSL is reasonably reliable and tops out at around 100 Mbps. However, most users should expect speeds of around 25 Mbps with consistency.

DSL data speeds are physically limited by the distance the phone line runs from the main distribution point. The closer you are to the main distribution point, the faster the available service will be.

DSL internet pricing

Around $40 per month for service, plus setup and equipment fees

DSL internet speed

Up to 100 Mbps (however, most users should expect only 25 to 50 Mbps)

Fixed wireless internet

Fixed wireless internet, a point-to-point wireless connection, requires a directional radio antenna on both ends of the signal to send and receive data. Its speeds typically range from 5 to 100 Mbps.

Unlike most standard home and office Wi-Fi antennas, fixed wireless technology is designed for outdoor use with large broadcast towers and receivers. Several different radio antennas can better accommodate various signal distances, weather conditions and bandwidths to optimize performance. 

Fixed wireless internet service is increasing in popularity for businesses operating in select small towns and rural areas outside the reach of traditional broadband services such as DSL, cable and fiber-optic internet.

Fixed wireless internet pricing

Around $50 per month

Fixed wireless internet speed

Up to 100 Mbps

TipBottom line
When you're setting up business Wi-Fi, pay close attention to security best practices, such as encrypting your Wi-Fi network and creating strong passwords.

Cellular internet

Cellular can be an attractive and convenient option for retail-focused businesses whose internet needs are limited to customer transactions through POS systems. Wireless internet performance through a cell phone may vary depending on your service provider and device, with speeds typically available at 4G and 5G levels. You may also hear cellular internet referred to as LTE internet.

The term “4G” refers to the fourth generation of cellular networks, which can reach speeds of 100 Mbps. However, the typical speed is closer to 20 Mbps. The term “5G” refers to the fifth generation of cellular networks, which can reach speeds of more than 1 Gbps, but the typical speed is closer to 70 Mbps through most major cell phone service providers. 

Square, Lightspeed and Clover are some of the best mobile POS systems and service solutions that work perfectly with cellular internet service for small retail businesses.

Cellular internet pricing

Varies, but around $70 per device monthly for unlimited data plans

Cellular internet speed

Up to 100 Mbps

Cable internet

Cable internet grew from the existing coaxial cable television infrastructure to deliver reliable high-speed internet access to homes and businesses nationwide, much in the way DSL piggybacks off of dial-up.

Called a “last-mile technology,” cable internet systems transmit data through a modem at the customer’s physical location and a cable modem termination system located at a cable provider’s facility, often grouped into hubs for efficiency.

For the past decade, cable internet has dominated the high-speed broadband landscape. While entering the end of its dominance as the gold standard in true high-speed broadband access, cable is still a very good option for businesses operating where access to fiber is not yet available.

For daily use at small and midsize businesses (SMBs), a cable connection is the ideal minimum technology requirement for sufficient download speeds of up to 2,000 Mbps, with slower upload speeds. With so many different options for speed and data limits measured by the gigabyte, prices for cable internet service can vary a great deal.

Cable internet pricing

From $35 per month to more than $500 per month for service, plus setup and equipment fees

Cable internet speed

Up to 2,000 Mbps

TipBottom line
If you're deciding between business DSL and cable, DSL may be satisfactory if your internet needs are minimal and you don't have plans to expand. Cable is a better option if you use cloud software and plan to add more employees and devices to your workplace.

Fiber-optic internet

You may be wondering if your business should get fiber-optic internet. While satellites may make the most headlines, fiber-optic providers are connecting their customers to the world with data download and upload speeds of up to 1 Gbps, which only fiber-optic providers can deliver commercially. They can go even faster, though, with the most expensive service levels offering up to 5 Gbps.

Each fiber-optic cable houses hundreds of optical fibers made by stretching glass or plastic to only one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. Each fiber can transmit data at roughly 70 percent the speed of light. Fiber internet signals also benefit from not being dependent on electricity, unlike the copper coaxial cables used to support cable broadband internet access.

The result is that power outages will have little — or even no — effect on fiber internet performance. There’s also no need to worry about electromagnetic interference from any nearby powerful electrical equipment.

While the current leading data transmission technology is widely available in many urban centers across the country, coverage is currently restricted to around 43 percent of the population.

Google, Verizon, AT&T and Spectrum are among the companies continuously growing their fiber infrastructure nationwide. Pricing for fiber is similar to that of cable at higher speeds and could even be less expensive than cable packages above 100 Mbps.

If you operate an internet-reliant business in an area with existing fiber internet infrastructure, especially if you need to purchase office hardware or equipment for long-term use, a fiber-optic connection is the best choice.

Fiber-optic internet pricing

About $60 per month for basic service, with higher prices for top speeds

Fiber-optic internet speed

Up to 5 Gbps up and down

Defining an acceptable internet connection

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a standard broadband internet connection has a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and a minimum upload speed of 3 Mbps. This has been the standard since 2015. The FCC recently proposed upping that to 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload to bring its definition of broadband more in line with current technology.

While this is a positive move, many businesses in small towns across rural America struggle to find reliable high-speed service. The most recent FCC data shows that 7.2 million locations in the U.S. lack access to high-speed internet. 

Use the FCC’s National Broadband Map to check coverage for your area.

Internet speeds and their capabilities

It can be difficult to determine how much internet speed your business needs. For SMBs with a growing reliance on video conferencing and other data-heavy activities, the current federal broadband benchmark of 25 Mbps is considered insufficient.

With so much commerce activity and communication occurring online, most SMBs should seek out cable and fiber-optic internet connections with a minimum speed of 100 Mbps. This speed enables small teams to manage online communications and tasks without interruptions or dropped conference calls.

As a general guideline, here’s what you can expect to accomplish with an available range of internet speeds.

1-5 Mbps

Good for:

  • Checking email
  • Searching on Google
  • Chatting on Slack
  • Streaming music

5-40 Mbps

Good for:

  • Streaming video on one device
  • Video conferencing with Zoom or Skype on one device
  • Downloading small files
  • Publishing web content

40-100 Mbps

Good for:

  • Streaming HD or 4K video on a few devices
  • Video conferencing with a few devices on Zoom or Skype
  • Downloading large files
  • Uploading files

100-500 Mbps

Good for:

  • Streaming video in UHD on multiple screens
  • Downloading large files quickly
  • Uploading large files
  • Providing high-speed internet access for up to five people at the same time

500-1,000+ Mbps

Good for:

  • Hosting video conferences or livestreams for large groups
  • Downloading large files quickly
  • Uploading large files quickly
  • Providing high-speed internet access to many devices simultaneously
TipBottom line
When you're considering the best business broadband solution for your company, your first step is to find out what's available for your business address. Providers and speeds can vary widely by location.

The best business internet service providers

We regularly short-list and review the best business internet service providers available. Here’s more information about five top providers, including current prices, speeds and the business ISP features you should look for.

AT&T Business

  • Price range: $75 per month (300 Mbps) to $285 per month (5 Gbps)
  • Maximum download speed: 1 Gbps
  • Types of service: Dedicated, fiber and wireless
  • Add-ons: Wireless backup, voice and security

Read our comprehensive review of AT&T Business to learn about this provider’s symmetrical upload and download speeds.

Comcast Business ISP

  • Price range: Custom pricing
  • Maximum download speed:25 Gbps
  • Types of service: Dedicated, fiber and wireless
  • Add-ons: Wireless backup, guest Wi-Fi and security

Read our latest review of Comcast Business ISP to learn why Comcast shines for enterprise businesses.

Spectrum Business

  • Price range: From $59.99 per month
  • Maximum download speed: 1 Gbps
  • Types of service: Fiber and wireless backup
  • Add-ons: Wireless backup, business Wi-Fi and security

Read our detailed review of Spectrum Business to learn about this provider’s simplicity, fast fiber speeds and low monthly prices.

Viasat

  • Price range: From $69.99 per month
  • Maximum download speed: 150 Mbps
  • Types of service: Satellite
  • Add-ons: Backup internet

Read our in-depth Viasat review to learn how this vendor facilitates internet access in hard-to-reach places.

Verizon High-Speed Internet

  • Price range: From $69 per month
  • Maximum download speed: 2 Gbps
  • Types of service: Dedicated, fiber and wireless
  • Add-ons: Wireless backup, security, video conferencing and voice

Read our comprehensive Verizon High-Speed Internet review to learn about this provider’s range of business-focused connectivity tools.

Mark Fairlie contributed to this article. 

author image
Jeff Hale, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Jeff Hale is a dynamic entrepreneur who intimately understands the challenges and triumphs of small business ownership, bringing invaluable insights and leveraging his expertise to drive growth and visibility. He is also a veteran communications professional who possesses an in-depth understanding of B2B communications technologies, particularly business phone systems, internet and customer relationship management (CRM) software. Hale has demonstrated a knack for identifying lucrative market opportunities for Fortune 500 clients, while also crafting bespoke communication strategies and digital branding solutions for burgeoning tech startups and small enterprises alike. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, and furthered his knowledge with an MBA from Chapman University. With his blend of practical experience and academic prowess, Hale is a trusted authority in the realms of communications, marketing and entrepreneurship.
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