Choose an internet service provider for your business

ISP tiers, connectivity and speed capacity


Connection speed is a major consideration for users, as well as internet service providers (ISPs). Business benefits can be achieved through an 'always-on' connection using:

  • a leased line
  • integrated digital services network (ISDN)
  • asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL)
  • fibre to the cabinet (FTTC)
  • fibre to the premises (FTTP)
  • cable
  • satellite
  • mobile wireless

See also choosing a business broadband connection.

Tier 1, 2 and 3 service providers

As far as the ISP's connection to the internet is concerned, check whether it is a Tier 1, 2 or 3 provider. Tier 1 providers own or control their own portion of the internet, while Tier 2 and 3 providers lease bandwidth from them. A Tier 1 provider may be more expensive, but they are also often more reliable.

The capacity of your own internet connection will directly affect the speed with which you are able to use the internet. For example, with a typical webpage (assuming 400 kilobytes of data) you can expect the following fastest download times:

Download speeds

Internet connection Time to download larger file size (1GB)
2MB broadband 1 hour and 11 minutes
8MB broadband 18 minutes
24MB broadband 6 minutes
76MB broadband 2 minutes
150MB broadband 60 seconds
300MB broadband 30 seconds

Increasingly ISPs are offering a range of broadband services via ADSL, FTTC, FTTP, cable or wireless. Evaluate these carefully for the speed of connection offered and the associated costs.

If you are considering a broadband service, take into account contention ratios. This is the maximum number of users sharing the bandwidth on the connection between your local exchange and the ISP. For example, a user with a contention ratio of 20:1 never has to share this bandwidth with more than 19 other users.

ISP service terms and conditions

Some ISPs include clauses in their contracts that impose system-usage restrictions, and bandwidth limits or fair usage policies that aren't declared on the package advertisement. Many providers will quote best-case speeds whereas the actual speeds delivered can be much slower. Look at such terms and conditions carefully prior to signing any ISP service level agreements.