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Our ISP if offering us Internet via a direct optical Fiber link or a licensed frequency microwave link.

assuming there is not obstacle and same distance,

which link is more reliable (up-time %) and which have better ping?

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closed as too localized by Dave M, Tom O'Connor, Ward, Chris S Feb 23 '13 at 1:50

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5 Answers 5

I have a dozen clients with "fixed-wireless" (microwave) broadband connections. In every case, I pair that wireless connection with a connection delivered over a different medium (T1, Cable, Fiber, DSL, etc.). See my posts about Elfiq link balancers for more detail.

I have a year of real data from a similar pair of sites, one with 20Mbps wireless + bonded T1 pair, the other with 50Mbps fiber.

  • The fixed-wireless had 60 outages of one minute or longer in the past year. Most recovered within two minutes. The worst outages were 12 hours or longer.

  • The bonded T1's had three outages. All were last-mile related.

  • The fiber had one extended outage... And an upstream DNS issue.

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Optical fiber has much better availability compared to microwave.

I the case of microwave you are operating in the air where there can be conditions which disturb the signal. e.g. weather conditions, lightning and other devices.

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What about backhoes? –  Jeff Ferland Feb 22 '13 at 22:35
1  
The microwave tower still relies on a fiber backbone to the provider. Fiber cuts still happen. –  ewwhite Feb 22 '13 at 23:31

Anything running outside of a controlled environment will be less reliable than something running in a controlled environment. The inside of an optical fiber is a controlled environment. Microwave radiation broadcast would be subject to interference not present in the fiber. The microwave would definitely be less reliable, with the exception of a failure in the physical link, but there would be no way to know by how much.

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I'll take fibre over microwave any day. The incidence of backhoes in big cities is far lower than that of fog or pigeons.

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It depends on your location, up-time guarantee by ISP, and cost of installation/recurring fees. In Metro-Detroit, there is an ISP vendor claiming their microwave service is 99.999% up, with a "no long term commitment" option. Sometimes, it's cheaper and more reliable to use multiple T1's.

As a side note, microwave has come a long way in technology. The dishes are a lot less prone to geometric errors these days, easier to install/remove, easier to adjust and carry a higher bandwidth than they used to. The risk of weather is still an important barrier though.

Fiber would generally be my first choice, if it were cheap. It's high bandwidth, high availability and nearly always perfect, but is not without it's own problems, of course. If you're in an area where there is a huge pipe of fiber, then go for it. These are maintained better, and generally easier and faster to reroute/repair.

TL;DR: Certain areas are more accessible for microwave, and some areas are more accessible for fiber. Accessibility determines cost. If the MICROWAVE((cost of downtime * length of downtime)+installation fees+recurring monthly fees+incidentals) < FIBER((cost of downtime * lenth of downtime)+installation fees+recurring monthly fees+incidentals), then I would be in favor of microwave. Else, I would be in favor of fiber.

Personal Note I did some research into this for an ISP replacement solution for my organization and we decided to try out the microwave solution, because there was a low recurring fee, no long term contract, and the ISP was going to eat the cost of the build-out. The fiber solution would have cost us $10K in build-out, and the person I report to was not comfortable with high initial investment.

Side Note The cost of the 20Mbps microwave solution was about the same cost as a 4.5Mbps (3x T1) solution we're using for MPLS. I love my MPLS provider, because they have superb customer service and service response time. I don't think I'll ever let them go. I'd use them as my ISP, too, but the cost/benefit margin wasn't there.

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