To access a website or an application an internet connection is needed, and to access the internet you need an internet service provider (ISP). The city and country you live in can determine who your ISP could be, and it will also determine the quality and speed of your connection. Have you ever wondered how the inter-connectivity between networks at a global scale actually works to allow us to communicate? This inter-connectivity is possible thanks to the flow of traffic between Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 ISPs. According to the Collins English Dictionary, by definition, an ISP is a business providing its customers with a connection to the internet and other related services. But what are the differences between a Tier 1 and Tier 2 provider?

A Tier 1 ISP is a provider that exchanges traffic with other Tier 1 providers, following strict peering agreements. Peering is the exchange of internet traffic; it occurs between two networks that have agreed on a connection to exchange traffic without the use of a third party, reducing internet transit costs. Tier 1 internet providers deliver the foundations of the internet, building the infrastructure and offering traffic to all other internet providers, but not to end users. Without Tier 1 internet providers, internet traffic could not be exchanged between different countries.

In practical terms, a tier 1 network is large enough so that it does not need to pay other Tier 1 providers in order to use their networks and charge smaller ones for access to their network. These Tiers are also large enough to support peering agreements between themselves so that internet traffic can go across any of their networks. Tier 1 networks provide global network coverage. There are only a dozen Tier 1 providers in the world, although there are some Tier 2 providers that may claim to be Tier 1 ISPs. The truth is that if they do not connect to the internet by peering only, then they cannot be classified as Tier 1 providers.

A Tier 2, on the other hand, is a provider that connects between Tier 1 and Tier 3 internet service providers. Tier 2 providers exchange internet through peering agreements, as well as purchase internet transit. They usually find it easier to purchase traffic rather than work out a peering agreement with a Tier 1 provider; the reason for this is the level of transit, as the Tier 2 provider might not have enough transit to peer with the Tier 1 provider.

But what are the advantages of these kinds of Tier providers? The advantages of Tier 1 providers are that they can handle DDoS attacks better. On the other hand, the advantages of Tier 2 providers are that they are usually smaller companies, meaning that they are able to provide better deals, SLAs, and bring fibre to your location in exchange for a signed contract. The main difference between the two-tier providers is that the first one is directly connected to the foundations of the internet, offering higher sped connections and more reliable networks. Another advantage is that solving issues can be much simpler with a Tier 1 ISP. As for Tier 2 providers, they usually cover a specific region by pairing with businesses, but they have lower quality networks and slower speeds than Tier 1 providers. Furthermore, through peering exchanges, one cable can enable hundreds of peers in one session for an annual fee.

The reason why Tier 1 providers don’t peer with Tier 2 ISPs is because of the fact that these are potential customers of the first providers, and if they can be customers and pay for the transit connection, giving them peer connectivity would not be beneficial for them, as peering is free (excluding data centre cross-connects). In conclusion, Tier 1 providers can be better when it comes to handling DDoS attacks, while Tier 2 ISPs are usually smaller companies which are able to make better deals. Tier 1 carriers include large companies such as Liberty Global in the UK, while Tier 2 carriers include larger ISPs and telecom providers including Vodafone, BT, and Elite.

Are you looking for the right Tier provider for your business to partner with? Then look no further, as Elite has a range of advantages for our channel partners. Follow the link below to find out the reasons why you should become one of our channel partners, and benefit from 24/7 support, competitive pricing, a flexible service, and access to our Portal.

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