Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ethernet Bandwidth is Downright Cheap

You know that compared to consumer bandwidth solutions, such as DSL or Cable, business bandwidth is pricey. That's always been because business grade services are touted to provide exclusive use of the lines and that they are regulated services with guarantees of reliability (availability.) But it's also because professional grade telecommunication lines are individually engineered and almost always involve both a competitive carrier for the long haul and the incumbent local phone company for last mile connectivity.

In the past few years, fierce competition has driven the cost of dedicated T1 Internet connections from over a thousand dollars a month down to under four hundred dollars a month in major metropolitan areas. But higher bandwidth services needed for video transport, medical image transmission, and engineering data are still priced at eye-popping levels. Small and mid-size companies can find themselves bandwidth restricted if they can't pony up the monthly lease fees for fiber optic grade services.

On top of the high prices for legacy telecom services, changes in technology are making traditional TDM or Time Division Multiplexing protocols less desirable than packet based systems. TDM services such as T1, T3, DS3 and OCx were fielded starting in the 1950's at the behest of the phone companies. No surprise then that the TDM protocol is based on increments of 64 Kbps, the bandwidth needed to support one digital phone call. You want more bandwidth? Just pack in more channels. But today's data communications are based on packets, not channels. You can put packets into channels, but isn't it more efficient to just transmit them as packets all the way?

You bet it is. Nearly all computer generated information originates at an Ethernet interface. That's typically 10, 100 or 1,000 Mbps, but increasingly 10 Gbps on corporate networks. While Ethernet LANs are the defacto standard within organizations, TDM is the protocol of most WAN or Wide Area Networks. When you want your data or VoIP telephony to leave the building, it has to be transformed into TDM protocols for interface with the public telecom network. Well, that's how it's been. But that's changing rapidly.

All telecom carriers have recognized the need to move from TDM To IP based networks and are moving in that direction. The competitive (non-incumbent) carriers are especially aggressive in that transformation. It's partly because they don't have legacy TDM networks to support and partly because they need to get the jump on the deeply entrenched phone companies in order to grab market share.

Let's take a look at some representative pricing and you'll see the difference. You'll pay a national average of $450 a month for a T1 line supporting DS1 service at 1.54 Mbps. That's about $292 per Meg for long haul bandwidth. Move up to DS3 on a T1 line or fiber optic carrier and you get 45 Mbps for around $5,000 on average. The economy of scale brings your cost per Meg down to $111. Those prices are maybe half what they were five years ago, but still beyond the reach of many companies that could make good use of that bandwidth.

Now compare these established TDM services with native Ethernet or IP network services. A 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet connection will set you back $2,000 a month. Yeah. That's really less than half the cost for over twice the bandwidth of DS3. Your cost per Meg is down to $20. Gigabit Ethernet or GigE connections can be had for an average of $12,000 a month for 1,000 Mbps. That's a mere $12 per Meg. If you wanted GigE over SONET based OC48 fiber optic TDM service, the cost would likely be ten to twenty times as much.

Now the rub. While prices for Ethernet transport are downright cheap by traditional telecom pricing standards, you have to be where the carriers are. Trenching fiber out in the boonies is astronomically expensive regardless of who's doing it. The way to get bargain bandwidth prices is to go where the service is already available. That means locating in a building that is already lit or moving your servers to a colo center, also known as a carrier hotel. But how do you find these oases of high bandwidth?

That's been made easy now by a new service called "Shop For Ethernet." It's a service of Telarus, a master agency for many competitive carriers and innovator in automating the telecommunications services shopping experience. Telarus has wed the science of real-time access to carrier databases to Google Maps. In a matter of seconds, not days or weeks, you can enter the address of your current building location and find out if you've already been "lit" for Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet service. Plus you'll also get map markers that show the locations of other buildings in the area that are currently lit by major carriers. That's important because once a building is lit, or provisioned with fiber optic service, it's a LOT less expensive to provide businesses located there with high bandwidth services.

Want to give it a try? You've got 5 seconds, right? Go ahead and enter your building address now to find out instantly which buildings in your area have the Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet WAN services you want. If you wish, you can then enter your contact information to have an Ethernet specialist provide you with highly competitive pricing.

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

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