5G vs fibre – which option is best for business?Posted on 30 June 2023 by Beaming Support
5G and fibre both allow for connection to the internet – but which one is faster, and which is the best option for businesses?
What is 5G?
5G is the 5th generation mobile network. It uses the newest wireless and antenna technologies, in order to provide faster speeds and low-latency connections to mobile devices. More devices can be connected to it at once, compared to 4G. 5G also uses a different wireless spectrum – which connects to a wider range of frequencies – meaning it can operate a lot faster than 4G.
Although 5G has more capacity, faster speeds and other improvements compared to its predecessor, it is still stifled by a lot of the same limitations: minimal coverage in certain areas (namely rural areas), and slower speeds in busy areas. This means that, depending on the amount of use in one particular area at any one time, your speeds will be affected – learn more about contention here.
What is fibre?
In this context, ‘fibre’ is referring to leased line fibre services , not FTTC or FTTP. Leased lines have fully synchronous upload and download speeds – meaning they can upload data at the same speed at which they can download – which is not the case for other broadband services. They are connected directly to the telephone exchange, which then links into your ISP’s core network in a data centre. Leased lines are uncontended, so you are guaranteed the speeds you pay for, without experiencing any slowdowns in service during peak times.
The security levels of 5G depend on the firewalls of your Mobile Service Provider (though you can put in place your own firewall downstream). With a leased line, you are also dependant on the firewall you – or your ISP – put in place. A leased line by itself is a complete “breakout” to the internet, meaning that if there is no firewall connected to the Openreach equipment, you are dependent on the firewall on your end device. It’s always wise to ensure that you have a managed corporate firewall in place on a leased line connection.
At time of writing, over 50% of the UK population is estimated to have access to 5G, but the coverage is focused in towns and cities, meaning those in more rural areas are less likely to have access yet. Fibre leased lines are installed to order, and are dedicated connections just for your business, meaning that most businesses will be able to get connectivity through a leased line.
Whereas 5G is susceptible to interference from both adverse weather and objects (such as buildings and trees); leased lines are underground, so tend to have much fewer reliability issues.
Installing a fibre leased line is a process that can take weeks, if not months, depending upon the complexity of the location at which it is required. If you are already in an area covered by 5G, your connection can be live in a matter of days.
5G as a backup for fibre
Some businesses choose to have 5G as a backup for their broadband. Naturally, this won’t bring with it the same performance as a leased line, but can be a cost-effective alternative to help your business to stay connected in an emergency. A 5G backup would be suitable for small businesses that don’t rely on constant connectivity.
VoIP phones would still work over a 5G connection, but due to the signal of the 5G it may be unreliable – similar to the way that on mobile devices, signal can ‘dip’.
Another important consideration would be home workers – if your employees work from home and dial-in remotely to your premises, this could potentially negatively impact the connection at your office depending on the nature of the work you are doing (downloading large files from the company server would saturate the office’s upload bandwidth, for example). If the upload speed of any connection – 5G or fibre – is fully saturated, all users will notice a drop in performance, but with a 5G connection, as it’s already a contended network, it will be much more noticeable.
If 5G is the only backup option available to you, then it is worth having – but isn’t recommended for all businesses. If you cannot afford to have any period of time without an internet connection in your premises, it is important to have an alternative backup in place. Larger businesses, with greater bandwidth requirements, would be best suited to a diversely routed fibre connection.
Which option is best for business?
Overall, it always depends on what you will be using the connection for – if you are a mobile worker and need to be on the move, but require fast speeds, then 5G is the best option available at the moment. If you are in a fixed location, installing a dedicated fibre optic leased line would be preferable, as you are guaranteed the speeds you pay for, without the worry of a loss of 5G connection.
We share more helpful articles on our Knowledge Base:
If I have a fibre leased line, do I need a backup?
What precautions should you have in place in case your leased line goes down? We’ve explained it all in this blog.
Can I switch FTTP broadband provider?
To achieve speed and reliability, many businesses are turning to FTTP broadband. But FTTP also brings questions – particularly about whether you will still be able to switch provider.