Common types of corporate network connections

Most corporate networks consist of a LAN, WAN, and Internet edge — and possibly a data center. These architecture segments contain different options for connecting different network components and transporting data to all parts of a corporate network.

Here’s an overview of some of the most common network connection types used in Internet edge, LAN, and WAN segments.

Internet edge connections

The Internet edge is the demarcation point that separates a private corporate network from the public Internet. Connectivity within this part of a corporate network is often referred to as: internet broadband.

Depending on physical location, available ISP options, and business requirements, popular internet edge connectivity options include the following:

  • twisted pair
  • cable
  • fiber
  • wireless

twisted pair

Twisted-pair Internet connections often come as a standard Cat6 or higher 8-pin twisted-pair cable. Other options include DSL or Integrated Services Digital Network, which use traditional telephone cabling that converts to an RJ-45 port through a DSL or ISDN modem. Throughput rates for twisted pair connections from ISPs are often limited to 1 Gbps.

Cable

Cable companies often provide Internet broadband access via coaxial cables. Like DSL and ISDN, a cable modem converts the coaxial connection into an RJ-45 port at the customer’s demarcation point. The Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications, or DOCSIS, technology behind cable broadband has steadily increased over the years, to the point where speeds can reach up to 2 Gbps.

Fiber

Fiber optic is often used as a transport medium for large companies that require a higher broadband throughput than what twisted-pair or coaxial cables can provide. With fiber, internet broadband services can reach 10 Gbps or higher.

Wireless

Some wireless broadband options are used as primary or secondary backup connections at the Internet edge. In most cases, businesses will opt for wired connectivity for Internet access, as wired tends to be more reliable and less prone to failure or interference. However, in certain situations, wireless may be the only option for a business.

Point-to-point Wi-Fi, public LTE or 5G, and satellite broadband are common ways to connect a business or remote office to the Internet with relative ease. Keep in mind that wireless throughput speeds are significantly slower compared to wired alternatives. Expect throughputs to be well below 100 Mbps.

Table of shielded, twisted, unshielded, twisted, coaxial, and fiber optic cables.
Twisted pair, coax and fiber optic cables are some of the most common forms of connectivity in the internet fringe.

LAN and data center connections

Ethernet and wireless connectivity options are the dominant network connection types for LANs.

Ethernet

From an Ethernet perspective, twisted pair and fiber optic cables connect endpoints and uplinks. Twisted pair, fiber, direct-connect cable, and Fiber Channel remain popular options in private data centers. Each connection type varies based on the types of connected devices, the amount of throughput required, and the distances the connection must travel.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is one of the most popular options for wireless LAN connectivity as all modern laptops, smartphones and tablets are fully integrated with Wi-Fi chips and antennas. The latest Wi-Fi 6 standard offers faster speeds and improved efficiency, among other things.

BLE

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is another form of wireless connectivity that is gaining ground in the LAN. BLE has several use cases, including distributing message notifications to remote employees and customers, as well as real-time tracking of mission-critical mobile equipment roaming around a facility.

Private 5G

Companies are starting to show interest in private 5G connectivity. The recent availability of freely accessible spectrum in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service frequency range allows companies to design and deploy their own 5G networks for private use.

Organizations use private 5G in situations where Wi-Fi has technical shortcomings that private 5G can remedy. Wi-Fi may just be a best-effort medium, while private 5G can guarantee improved performance and reduced latency.

WAN connections

The WAN portion of the general corporate infrastructure is where the corporate LAN branches and connects several secondary sites or branch offices to create a single unified network spanning a large geographic area. Depending on the connectivity options available and required bandwidth, WAN connections are either obtained through a network provider or implemented privately by the network owner.

Carrier WAN connectivity

Some types of network connections for WAN connectivity options rented through a telecommunications provider include:

  • MPLS
  • Metro Ethernet
  • leased lines
  • Synchronous Optical Network or Synchronous Digital Hierarchy

In these situations, the carrier is responsible for maintaining and operability of the connection between two or more locations. Certain carriers may also offer wireless WAN connectivity services via point-to-point Wi-Fi, microwave, LTE or 5G, and satellite backhaul.

Internet broadband is also often used in conjunction with point-to-point VPN connections to provide a logically created and encrypted tunnel between two or more business locations. Any type of internet broadband can work as long as it meets the required throughput and latency requirements.

Private WAN connectivity

Sometimes companies want to connect two or more buildings together, but not depend on a third party for WAN interconnection services. In these situations, dark fiber, microwave and point-to-point Wi-Fi are options that allow complete control and data protection as traffic crosses the WAN.

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