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Diversity vs Redundancy

November 17th, 2017 By Gabrielle DiSalvo

A breakdown of two buzzwords in the telecommunications industry: What do they mean and what’s the difference?

In any field of work, there are terms that everyone comes to know and use. Specifically, in the fiber-optic industry, there are two terms you hear often: diversity and redundancy. Over time, we have found members of the industry have started to confuse the two, as if they’re interchangeable. This leads to mix-ups and barriers in communication. To prevent future confusion, we saw a need to address what each term really means:

Redundancy (n):

a process through which additional or alternate instances of network devices, equipment and communication mediums are installed within network infrastructure1

Diversity (n):

a communications routing between two points A – B, over more than one geographic location or physical path with no common points2

What’s the difference?

Many inaccurately substitute the words diversity and redundancy when mapping out their overall network design. A network may have redundancy, but that does not mean it has diversity. When looking at network back-up options, there is one key factor in distinguishing between the two: geographic location.

But why is geographic location so important?

Now that we have established the basic definitions of diversity and redundancy, let’s look at how the two are different when affected by geography:

Route Diversity

  • More than one geographic or physical network path between two locations
  • Each path shares no common points or intersections, except at two locations where they connect 3

Route Redundancy

  • Two separate networks that can share a similar geographic path (ex: parallel fiber routes)
  • May share multiple common points or connections

Diversity is the only thing that can ensure the survival of your network.

If an incident occurs along your network route, and you have two separate paths that share a similar geographic location, the likelihood of both paths going down increases. Businesses want their network up and running constantly; having separate networks in two different geographic positions is crucial to network survival.4

Here’s an example:



A. Company A, represented in red, has achieved redundancy because they have more than one service provider from Location A to Location Z. However, both travel along a parallel geographic path and have no route diversity.

B. Company B, represented in blue, is an example of both a diverse AND redundant network. Not only do they have more than one service provider from one location to the other, but each take a geographically different network route.

United Fiber & Data’s fiber optic pathway connects New York, NY to Ashburn, VA with a 100% diverse network path. If you have fiber along the I-95 traditional route, as well as our alternative route, you will achieve both diversity and redundancy.