Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Dark Fiber Gives You Control

By: John Shepler

Higher and higher bandwidths are expected in business IT infrastructure. That includes the local networks and leased lines for metro and wide area bandwidth. It’s about more than that, though. Just as important are parameters such as latency, packet loss and jitter. Security is a major concern for all network operations. Finally, the ability to make changes, create workarounds and rapidly bring resources online are important to keeping network operations running smoothly.

Find Dark Fiber for business bandwidthBig Bandwidth Means Big Pipes
The need for increasing bandwidth has resulted in a mass migration from copper wirelines to fiber optic cables. Copper may still make sense to the desktop, but outside network connections need the capacity of fiber.

Fiber leased lines are available from 10 Mbps to at least 10 Gbps, with 100 Gbps service becoming more readily available. They can be configured as point to point dedicated lines or dedicated Internet access. Many companies need some combination of the two. The Internet is essential to communicating with customers and suppliers. Direct lines to cloud service providers and between company facilities provide more consistent performance, lower latency and higher security.

Wavelengths are Like a Private Fiber Link
Fiber optic cables are said to have unlimited bandwidth. While that might seem like an exaggeration, in practice it is pretty hard to run out of bandwidth. Each cable has multiple fibers, sometimes as many as 100 in a bundle. Each of those fibers can carry multiple streams of non-interfering data through a process of wavelength division multiplexing.

There are two schemes. Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing can divide the fiber into a dozen or more laser colors called Lambdas, all traveling the same time. Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing ups that count to 80, 96 or more separate wavelengths using more sophisticated equipment.

Note that each wavelength acts like its own fiber. It is unaware of other wavelengths on the same strand. When you lease a wavelength your data is not multiplexed with anyone else’s. You have exclusive use of all the bandwidth on that wavelength, which might be as high as 10 Gbps. Need more bandwidth? Lease another wavelength. Until the fiber bundle is fully loaded, you’ll never have to run more cable.

Dark Fiber Gives You Ultimate Control
What’s better than a wavelength? Having the entire fiber to yourself. That sounds great until you think about the cost of running your own fiber. It makes total sense on your own property, but what about connections across town or across the country? Unless you are in the business of providing carrier services, you’ll find trenching your own fiber to be cost prohibitive.

There is a way to get pretty much your own fiber. Lease an unused strand from a service provider. That’s more doable than you might think. Remember that it doesn’t make sense to go to all the trouble of burying a single fiber strand when you can bury a multi strand cable or even multiple multi strand cables for not much more cost. That way, a carrier only has to lay in the fiber once and have capacity to spare for decades.

These unused strands are called “dark” fiber because there is no laser light illuminating them. It could be your job to light the fiber. The carrier will simply give you access at each end of the fiber and the rest is up to you.

Clearly this beyond the capability of smaller companies, but they are likely well served by lit fiber options already available. Larger and more sophisticated IT organizations may be able to make good use of dark fiber for research labs, medical campuses, video content creation and transport, engineering & manufacturing, and other demanding applications.

Benefits of Dark Fiber
Owning exclusive rights to use an entire fiber is the next best thing to building your own. You do need to provide the termination equipment at each end and manage those resources. That may include your own DWDM equipment to generate multiple wavelengths for all the bandwidth you can reasonably use.

Without competing customers, there is no need for multiplexers to add and drop connections along the route. The fiber serves your locations only. The lack of unnecessary equipment in the line minimizes latency. Unlike the Internet there is no need for routers every so often to direct traffic. You not only have minimal latency, there is no reason it should vary from common carrier routing decisions, and no congestion as long as you are not overloading the capacity of the fiber or individual wavelength.

Security is another big benefit of dark fiber. There is no sharing of bandwidth among customers. This is similar to the old “nailed up” copper private point to point line. You need to trust the operator of the fiber, but don’t have to worry about the other customers. Of course, encryption on top of dedicated fiber gives you the most security you’ll get in point to point transmission.

Dark Fiber Availability
As fiber is being extensively deployed for Internet, cable television, and cellular towers, dark fiber is also becoming more and more available. Competitive fiber network operators and some cable system operators have lots and lots of extra capacity installed. They are more than happy to lease out unused strands when there are dozens sitting dark.

Do your needs demand the capacity, flexibility, and security that dark fiber offers? Find out what dark fiber options are available for your business locations.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Gigabit Ethernet Replaces DS3 and T3

By: John Shepler

T3 lines and DS3 bandwidth have long been a staple of telecom service offerings. The rise of Carrier Ethernet WAN, point to point microwave for business and DOCSIS 3 cable broadband is causing these traditional telco services to fade into legacy services. Let’s have a look at what’s available for your business in the 50 to 1000 Mbps speed range.

Gigabit Ethernet replaces DS3 and T3 now.Telco’s T1 Line Upgrade
The pioneering work on digital transmission over long distances was done by Bell Labs right after WWII. Their first product was called T-Carrier and consisted of T1 and T3 services that were compatible. T1 lines could replace 24 analog phone lines with one multiplexed T1 line.

T1 was designed to run on the same twisted pair copper wires that supplied analog POTS landlines for easy deployment. T3 is an upgrade that ran on coaxial copper lines and microwave towers at 45 Mbps. It can handle 672 voice lines. The protocol that runs on T3, called DS3, can also be carried on SONET fiber optic circuits. When the Internet arrived, both T1 and DS3 were offered in clear channel versions to carry packetized data. T1 runs at 1.5 Mbps. DS3 or T3 runs at 45 Mbps.

Carrier Ethernet over Fiber Takes Over
Computer generated data far exceeds telephone traffic these days. The near ubiquitous standard is Ethernet on the LAN running the Internet Protocol or IP. With T1 or DS3, you need to do a protocol conversion at each end to go from the computer standard to the telephone standard and back again. The introduction of Carrier Ethernet keeps everything in one standard, Ethernet, from end to end.

Carrier Ethernet has been deployed in two versions. The slower version is Ethernet over Copper or EoC. This is a direct replacement for T1 lines and fractional DS3 service and runs from about 1 Mbps to 20 Mbps or so depending on the length of the circuit. The key feature is that it uses the same twisted pair wiring as T1 line or analog phone lines.

The faster version of Carrier Ethernet is Ethernet over Fiber or EoF. This is the technology that is rapidly taking over the world. EoF gives you end to end Ethernet from about 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps and even 100 Gbps in some areas. As you might expect, Ethernet over Fiber easily replaces T3 lines or DS3 bandwidth over SONET. It also offers the ability to easily upgrade to higher speeds than 45 Mbps any time you want. With a Gigabit Ethernet port, you can start off at 50 or 100 Mbps and scale up to 1,000 Mbps with just a phone call or click of a mouse online. There is no need to change out equipment. Only the speed of the line and your monthly billing will change.

The other big advantage of Carrier Ethernet, and some say the most important one, is the cost reduction compared to traditional telco services. You can get EoF service at DS3 bandwidth speeds of 50 Mbps for a fraction of what you would pay for actual DS3 over SONET. 100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps and 10,000 Mbps are suddenly affordable when you upgrade to Ethernet over Fiber.

Wireless is Fiber Without the Fiber
There are situations where fiber just doesn’t work despite all its advantages. One is is rural or remote areas that haven’t been wired, perhaps not even for telephone. The other is in dense urban areas where fiber has yet to be installed. The cost of construction is astronomical in both situations but that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. Just skip the fiber or wires completely.

Point to point microwave was a staple of telephone long haul. Microwave relay towers would retransmit the phone calls every 30 miles or so. Microwave is still applicable on a smaller scale over reasonable distances. In downtown business districts a dish on the roof pointed at the provider's antenna a few blocks away can give you Gigabit level bandwidth with very little construction cost. it’s also fast to install compared with pulling cables under the street.

In more rural areas, a WISP or Wireless internet Service Provider gives similar service usually at somewhat lower bandwidth levels, but similar to DS3 or better. Customers point their antennas at the service tower which can be miles away, but in a direct line of sight.

Another popular arrangement is to take advantage of the fact that every cell tower is also transmitting Internet traffic for smartphones. 4G LTE is commonly available and can give you the performance of fractional DS3 at least on download. Many smaller businesses can get all the performance they need from 4G without any of the wiring headaches. This is especially valuable for mobile or pop-up stores and individual entrepreneurs. Now that 5G is well into deployment, cellular can easily replace DS3 and higher speeds.

One thing to be aware of with wireless services, especially cellular, is that there are usage limits to most plans. That’s because the system can handle less traffic than fiber and the bandwidth must be shared fairly among users. Even so, if you can get 300 GB per month plans and pay much less than DS3 or even a T1 line, wireless can make a lot of sense.

Cable Broadband Can Mimic Fiber
The old Cable TV networks have been vastly upgraded and are now mostly run on fiber. It’s just that last link into your building that is run with coaxial cable. The protocols have also been upgraded along with the switch from analog to digital television. DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 offer high speed performance at bargain prices. You might be surprised to know that DOCSIS 3.0 can support bandwidth up to 1 Gbps download and 200 Mbps upload. The newer DOCSIS 3.1 standard is good to 10 Gbps download and 1 to 2 Gbps upload. When DOCSIS 4.0 is deployed, that upstream capacity will increase to 6 Gbps.

Cable broadband is extremely popular with residential users and many businesses. You just can’t beat the pricing. The only limitations are that cable isn’t available in many rural areas and the bandwidth is multiplexed or shared among many users. Thus speeds can vary. Like wireless, there is a large difference between download speeds and upload speeds. Uploading is typically a tenth or less the speed of downloads. That reflects the way Internet traffic usually flows. In many cases, this may make no difference to your operation, but it you need very high upload and download speeds and dedicated bandwidth, especially for cloud services, you may need fiber optic service through cable companies or other competitive fiber network providers.

Do you still have an old DS3 or T3 contract or simply need high performance, low cost bandwidth in the 50 Mbps or above range? If so, discover what Gigabit Ethernet services are available for your business.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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Friday, August 06, 2021

Replace T1 Line With 10 Mbps Fiber at Same Cost

Is copper sunsetting by the telcos forcing you to look for T1 line replacement service? Consider it a blessing in disguise. You may well be able to upgrade your 1.5 Mbps T1 line to 10 Mbps fiber optic service for roughly the same price. What’s more, that fiber will allow you to easily add even more bandwidth as you need it.

Trade your T1 line in for 10 Mbps Fiber at the same cost. What’s Happening to Legacy Landlines?
T1 lines were the first digital telecom services created by Bell Labs and put into service to transport multiple telephone calls. They started being used for business, first for PBX telephone lines and then for digital private lines and dedicated Internet access. The oldest have been around more than 50 years. In the meantime, technology has advanced, most notably with the introduction of fiber optic cables, hybrid fiber coax, and microwave fixed wireless.

While millions of analog phone lines, T1 lines & ISDN PRI, and DS3 services have been successfully employed over the last half century, service providers are now beginning to “sunset” these technologies in favor fiber and wireless. Sunsetting involves no longer offering new connections, raising prices on existing services to cover increased maintenance costs, and eventually refusing to renew contracts when they expire. The copper lines and their associated central office equipment are effectively retired, even though it may be some time before they are removed and recycled.

Part of the problem is that the copper cables have been in the ground for so long that they are deteriorating. When there aren’t enough extra pairs to replace corroded wires or bad connections, new cables must be pulled or buried and that is very expensive. What makes it less attractive is that so many business customers are migrating to fiber anyway for increased bandwidth and connections to the cloud infrastructure. At some point it is no longer worth maintaining these legacy services.

Fiber Steps In to Replace Copper
When you first ordered your T1 or T3 (DS3) line, fiber optic service may not have been available. What was available cost a pretty penny. You needed to be a very large organization with a large need and even larger budget to have OC3, OC12 or OC48 SONET fiber installed. Two developments have changed all that.

First is the invention of Ethernet over Fiber as an alternative to the telephone-centric SONET. EoF easily connects to Ethernet LANs and is readily scalable to whatever bandwidth you need. Competitive service providers who entered the market following deregulation of the telecom industry adapted Ethernet over Fiber for their regional and national networks. This allowed them to offer much lower cost options to business customers.

The second development was the advancement of cellular broadband from 2G to 3G to 4G and now 5G. Phone companies got away with using their T1 lines to feed the cell towers until 4G LTE became the standard. Then even multiple T1 lines couldn’t provide enough bandwidth to support the faster broadband. Fiber optic or point to point microwave is needed to support today’s cell towers. Fiber has been installed far and wide just to have enough bandwidth for smartphones. A side benefit is that fiber is readily available for other connections in areas far beyond the metro business district.

Fiber Now Priced Similar to Copper
The cost of T1 lines declined for decades but now looks to increase again as time goes on. With fewer customers and a desire to sunset the service, expect that your T1 line will cost more in the future, if you can even continue the service. Meanwhile, fiber optic service has rapidly declined in price due to expanded deployment and competitive pressures. So much so that the cost of 10 Mbps fiber service is now roughly the same as a single T1 line. If you are bonding two T1 lines to get 3 Mbps bandwidth, you’ll triple your bandwidth and actually pay less by switching over to fiber.

Are you faced with increased T1 costs and service disconnects or simply want to get more bandwidth for the same budget? If so, then get competitive quotes on Ethernet over Fiber bandwidth services available for your business location.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

DOCSIS 4.0 Expands 10 Gbps Cable Broadband

By: John Shepler

Fiber Optic service is expanding faster and farther than ever. It’s the gold standard in the quest for unlimited business bandwidth. Many businesses, frustrated by their inability to get fiber lit into their buildings or locked-out by the high cost of fiber construction, turn to their next best option: Cable broadband. Now the latest cable standard, DOCSIS 4.0, brings symmetrical streaming and increased upload speeds to ordinary coaxial copper cable service. Would you believe 10 Gbps download and 6 Gbps upload? Fiber has some serious competition from cable.

DOCSIS 4.0 offers 10 Gbps over CableWhat is DOCSIS?
DOCSIS is the technology that enables traditional cable TV providers to also offer broadband Internet service on the same cable at the same time. The term is an acronym for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. It is the product of Cable Television Laboratories, Inc., CableLabs, a non-profit group supported by the cable system operators.

DOCSIS has evolved along with the Internet. The original spec was DOCSIS 1.0 released in 1997 and defined standards for 40 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. VoIP and QoS mechanisms were added by the early 2000’s, along with a boost in upstream data rates to 30 Mbps.

A significant improvement was introduced with DOCSIS 3.0 in 2006. Now cable companies could offer 1 Gbps downstream and 200 Mbps upstream with channel bonding. Support for IPv6 was also introduced at this time. With these improvements, it could be said that cable was a serious competitor to fiber optic services.

DOCSIS 3.1 in 2013 increased maximum downstream capacity to 10 Gbps with 1 to 2 Gbps upstream and is widely embraced by cable operators. DOCSIS 4.0, the latest version, increased the upstream rate to 6 Gbps in 2017. DOCSIS 4.0 is still in the early stages of production testing and deployment. The ultimate plan is to have full duplex symmetrical bandwidth on cable of 10 Gbps.

How Can Copper Cable Run So Fast?
Truth be told, it’s been a lot of years since cable TV networks were built with coaxial copper cable from the antennas at the head-end all the way to individual households and business locations. Virtually all systems of any size now use a technology called HFC or Hybrid Fiber Cable. The core network is fiber optic cable just like fiber network providers operate. The difference is that those companies run fiber right to the demarcation point within the building, while cable service terminates the fiber somewhere in the neighborhood and the makes the final run with the familiar coaxial cable. It was HFC that really enabled cable providers to offer serious broadband service.

Access Cable Fiber Networks Directly
Cable networks serve extensive metropolitan areas and their suburbs. Multi-system operators have fiber that interconnects their networks and connects to the Internet backbone. Major cable companies have gotten into the business of competing directly with competitive fiber optic networks by offering businesses the option to connect to their fiber networks without going through the copper interface.

There are advantages in going the fully fiber route. You may be able to get faster speeds and fully symmetric and dedicated connections by avoiding the cable modem. Remember that cable broadband is an inherently shared service. You are on the same last-mile Internet connection as dozens or hundreds of your neighbors. As such, you may find the the congestion level and speed of service vary throughout the day. It all depends on what everybody else is doing.

This is the reason that businesses, especially those with significant business processes running in the cloud, opt for dedicated Internet access and point to point private lines. You can get those at low speeds with traditional telco services such as T1 lines and higher speeds with DS3 bandwidth, SONET fiber optic services, Ethernet over Fiber and MPLS networks.

What service will meet your needs depends on how sensitive your operations are to line speed and latency, along with jitter and congestion. Cable broadband, especially at the DOCSIS 3.0 and above levels, provides many, many businesses with highly usable and reliable service at excellent pricing levels. Other companies with more sensitive needs may need to access fiber itself and set up more dedicated and private connections to achieve the performance they require for maximum productivity.

Find out now what cable, fiber and twisted pair copper broadband options are available for your business and what each has to offer.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Are T1 Lines Still Used?

By: John Shepler

In these days of gigabit fiber optic connections and cable broadband, it may seem quaint to talk about twisted copper pair lines for WAN networking service or Internet access. Yet, the venerable T1 line is still in use today. OK, but why would anyone choose this legacy technology option?

Check T1 prices and availability now!Who Needs a T1 Line?
In an ideal world, we’d be swimming in choices when it comes to networking offerings. Some people actually are, but you’ll find them in the commercial districts of major U.S. cities. Every networking provider wants to serve New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. How about out where the cows moo, well beyond the incorporated limits of podunk towns that dot the countryside? Any takers?

No, not so much. The problem is that we, as a country, haven’t accepted Internet access as a basic utility yet. Time was when electricity was in the same category. It was considered a luxury item. By 1936 it was obvious that standard AC electrical power was of strategic importance to the country and should be distributed everywhere. Thus, the Rural Electrification Act brought power lines into every farm, ranch and rural homestead. Everybody got the same quality of electrical service regardless of where they were located.

Fast forward to today. Broadband Internet access is still widely considered to be an optional service for businesses and home use despite the fact that you can hardly access a government service, take a school course or run any sort of business without getting online. So, you either pony up for whatever service is available in your area, do everything on your phone, or settle for shared options like the public library or free WiFi hotspots.

How T1 Fits In
T1 lines are no screaming broadband service by any stretch of the imagination. But they work and work well, often in places where even wireless service is unavailable.

How’s that possible? it’s by design. The original purpose of the T1 Carrier System was to transport multiple telephone conversations on a single digital line. That’s right. It’s a phone company invention that was intended for phone company office use. What T1 did was replace up to 24 telephone wires strung on poles between offices with a pair of lines that carried all 24 calls at once without them interfering with each other.

As a telephone company standard, T1 was designed to use ordinary twisted pair wiring just like plain old telephone service. it was also designed with repeaters spaced every mile or so to boost the signal so it could reach as far as needed.

When the Internet came along decades later, T1 was already heavily in use for phone service. The local phone companies began to offer it to businesses as an upgrade to the dial-up Internet access of the time. T1 was considered broadband in the ’90’s. Instead of carrying multiple phone calls, a T1 line provides 1.5 Mbps of always-on and dedicated bandwidth. There’s no competition with other users and no busy signals.

T1 Lines Today
Just as you can still get landline telephone, you can still get a T1 line installed for your business in many locations. Some businesses have multiple phone lines coming into a local PBX phone system on a T1 line set up as ISDN PRI. At the same time, they may have another T1 line for Internet access or a T1 private point to point connection between two locations.

A few things have changed over the years. T1 is no longer the broadband of choice for most business users with other options simply because the bandwidth is so limited. Prices have come down dramatically from eye popping levels to something much more reasonable, although that is starting to reverse in areas that are phasing out T1. Indeed, this legacy service still works great but is slowly being replaced by fiber optic lines and microwave fixed wireless.

What you do get for your monthly T1 lease is a rock solid line at 1.5 Mbps in both the up and down directions. These lines are highly reliable and quickly repaired if something goes wrong. That may not sound like much bandwidth, but it can easily work for modest retail or office operations that need credit card verification, email, updates to simple websites, inventory updates, ordering, and casual web browsing.

Note that Point to Point T1 lines offer an interconnection that avoids the public Internet and the congestion and security issues that come with that giant network. You get a private, dedicated, symmetrical link between your locations that's like extending your own network over long distances.

Where can you get a T1 line installed? Do you have a landline phone? Can you get one? Chances are the same location can still have T1 line service installed.

Alternatives to T1 Lines
These days, cable broadband is pushing farther and farther out of town to serve industrial parks and residential subdivisions. Fiber optic providers are also expanding their service areas as they extend their cable to more remote cell towers. Fiber prices have come down dramatically, as service areas have increased.

Speaking of cellular towers, most areas have at least some cell service and 4G LTE broadband, if not 5G. You can get a specialized cellular modem designed to connect to your computers or WiFI router at a reasonable price. The companies that offer this service have plans with generous usage limits available.

Some rural areas have what are called WISPs or Wireless Internet Service Providers that serve the underserved locations that are too few and far apart to attract wired connections. A WISP is like a very large WIFI hotspot and some use the same frequencies. Most often, you’ll need to install an outside antenna and point it at the WISP tower to get connected. When you do, you’ll get fairly high speed broadband.

In business districts, fixed microwave wireless offers bandwidths and latency similar to fiber but without the fiber. Instead, a small dish on your roof points at the service provier's tower to deliver a highly reliable high speed connection. This is similar to WISPs but can deliver dedicated rather than shared bandwidth.

Satellite broadband is also widely available just about anywhere with a clear view of the southern sky and some electrical power. This is true broadband service, with plans that can accommodate most business users. It’s a shared service, so your bandwidth will depend on how many others are accessing the same “bird”. There’s also the matter of a half-second delay or latency because the satellite is in geostationary orbit far above the Earth. Many business users think satellite broadband works just fine for their needs, especially with the newer higher power and higher throughput satellites that have become available recently.

So, is a T1 line still the right solution for your network access needs? Or is one of the fiber or wireless solutions a better choice? Before you decide, find out just what bandwidth service options and pricing are available for your particular business location.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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