Difference Between Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Connectivity and How it Affects Bandwidth

Jul 8, 2024

Ever since the Internet became a ubiquitous presence in our lives, the question of download and upload bandwidth has somewhat perplexed the everyday person. Shouldn’t there just be one speed? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. There are two types of connections that determine the speed and reliability of Internet service – symmetrical and asymmetrical. Each type has its own pros and cons and knowing those will make the decision on which to use easier.

What’s the Difference?
Symmetrical connections are exactly what they sound like — a connection with equal download and upload speeds. For example, a 500/500 Mbps symmetrical connection provides 500 Mbps of download and 500 Mbps of upload speed. On the other hand, an asymmetrical connection does not offer equal download/upload speeds. For instance, a 60/3 Mbps connection means there is 60 Mbps for downloading and only 3 Mbps for uploading. Asymmetrical bandwidth is commonly found in more traditional Internet connections, such as cable or fixed wireless.

Benefits of Symmetrical Connections
The overall benefit of a symmetrical connection is consistency and guarantees of the same upload and download speeds. However, the cost of symmetrical is usually more. Among the other benefits of symmetrical connections are:

  • Faster (and larger) file uploads. Uploading files to the cloud sometimes seems to take forever, especially large video or graphical files. Symmetrical speeds reduce the time it takes to upload and download content, and complete tasks faster.
  • Elimination of Internet roadblocks. Slow uploads and dropped video calls often occur when data gets congested due to insufficient available bandwidth during peak traffic periods. Symmetrical connections prevent these issues by ensuring that upload speeds aren’t strained, thereby maintaining productivity, and minimizing disruptions.
  • Enhanced access to cloud services. Cloud computing has gained immense popularity, not only among businesses but also among consumers, due to the flexibility, secure storage, and team collaboration it offers. However, reliable access to the cloud depends on fast upload speeds. Symmetrical connections guarantee that one’s cloud services are always available and operating optimally.
  • More bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data being transferred in a certain period of time. Symmetrical speeds (as provided by fiber-optic Internet) allow for multiple devices to be connected with the capability of downloading and uploading data equally, rather than slowing down solely download speed as with an asymmetrical connection.

Benefits of Asymmetrical Connections
Probably the most significant overall benefit of asymmetrical connections is cost-effectiveness. So, for the cost-conscientious willing to accept reduced performance, asymmetrical may be the way to go. Here are the key benefits of asymmetrical connections:

  • Asymmetrical connections are usually more budget-friendly, often ranging from 10% to 15% less expensive than their symmetrical counterparts.
  • Fast download speeds. While uploads may take longer with asymmetrical connections, you can still enjoy high downloading speeds. If uploading is not a high priority for your business or personal use, investing in an asymmetrical connection might be a more reasonable option.
  • Availability. Since asymmetrical was the first connection type supplied by early Internet service providers, it is more accessible because of its legacy.

What’s the Best Fit?
Choosing between symmetrical and asymmetrical connections depends on specific Internet usage and bandwidth requirements. Both connections have their benefits, but what works best for your situation depends on the usage of the Internet in your individual case. Consider the following factors to determine which option is the best fit:

For work environments: Investing in symmetrical speeds is beneficial if:

  • The work environment is distributed across a large geographic area, with multiple sites and locations, especially if a significant remote workforce is present.
  • The work heavily relies on collaboration tools within the office environment.
  • The migration or existing use of cloud-based applications and services such as Google Drive, Office 365, Salesforce, and others are required.

For home usage: symmetrical speeds are advantageous if:

  • Home applications, such as environmental monitoring systems or entertainment systems requiring consistent bandwidth, necessitate unswerving download and upload speeds.
  • The type of Internet connection affects speed, such as fiber connections that offer higher performance, making symmetrical speeds more appropriate.
  • The number of users and types of usage in a household require consistent and reliable speeds, especially with the performance demands required to support remote work and online gaming.

For work environments, asymmetrical connections might fulfill needs if:

  • The work environment is small with only a few employees.
  • The work applications and usage patterns are not bandwidth-intensive or resource-heavy.
  • There is infrequent use of large file sharing such as videos and graphics.

In terms of home usage, asymmetrical speeds might fulfill your needs if:

  • The need for high-speed Internet for devices and applications aren’t required.
  • There is a small number of users.
  • The entertainment platforms don’t require a lot of bandwidth.
  • Availability of high-speed Internet, such as fiber to the home, is not accessible.

Most cable Internet connections use asymmetrical bandwidth, of which data transmits much more quickly in one direction than the other. One of the selling points for fiber Internet is higher-performing connectivity, reaching speeds up to 10 Gig or more. On top of that because it provides a symmetrical connection, no matter how fast your download speed is, the upload speed will be the same so data intensive applications such as large file transfers, videoconferencing, streaming, gaming and more will perform more optimally.

Ultimately, the type of Internet connectivity needed should be based on current and future bandwidth demand expectations of the Internet service in question. Conducting a thorough assessment of work and home requirements and goals can help individuals make informed choices and eliminate any regrets down the road.

About Fiber Fast Homes

Fiber Fast Homes is a fiber to the home Internet service provider that partners with developers and builders to provide fiber Internet at Gig speeds. Fiber Fast Homes offers service to new home and build-to-rent communities across the country. They take pride in the high quality of customer service they provide to both their partners and their community residents. Fiber Fast Homes is a subsidiary of Boston Omaha Corporation (NYSE:BOC).

For more information, please reach out to:
Kate Moore Director of Marketing, Fiber Fast Homes