Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh, My Aching Internet Backbone

Bandwidth expansion is a sign of good business. As an Internet service provider or content provider, you see that once generous T1 pipe getting full to the limit. Now what? You wince a bit because revenues may not be accelerating at the same rate as bandwidth demand. Is there a way to ensure a solid dedicated connection to the Internet without going broke?

Today you have more cost competitive options than ever before. The standard upgrade path for ISPs and others with Internet backbone connections has been from T1 line to T3 line or DS3 over fiber, then OC3 SONET optical fiber, OC12, and on upward to OC48 bandwidth. You can still get all of these services at prices lower than ever before. But you now also have the options of Ethernet, Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet for your dedicated Internet connection. Let's take a look at what's currently available.

The most basic professional grade Internet connection is the T1 line at 1.5 Mbps. Some providers of free WiFi hotspots, such as restaurants, may get by with business DSL or a Cable Modem connection since the service is being offered on an "as available" basis at no charge to the patron. For everybody else, a T1 data line configured for dedicated Internet service is the opening ante.

If you fill up your T1 bandwidth, an incremental upgrade is to bond-in a second T1 to double the bandwidth. This process can be continued for 3x, 4x, 5x, and even 6x the original bandwidth. If you have a WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) tower in a rural area, T1 service over copper lines might be your only reasonable option. In metropolitan areas, you have a choice of staying with copper or moving up to fiber optic service.

T3 Internet runs at 45 Mbps and was originally designed for a coaxial cable physical layer. Today the same service is DS3 running on SONET metro fiber. T1, bonded T1, T3, and SONET fiber optic services are all based on TDM or Time Division Multiplexing. A protocol conversion is used to transport IP packets on TDM trunk lines. The last mile connection, or local loop, is almost always provided by the Incumbent Local Phone Company regardless of who supplies your Internet service port.

The native Ethernet connection is something fairly new. It is has come about primarily from competitive carriers with their own nationwide networks based on IP and not TDM, direct peering connections to the Internet, and local points of presence in metropolitan areas. XO communications is an example of a carrier that "lights" buildings for Ethernet fiber optic service in metro areas, bypassing the local phone companies completely. Check for Ethernet Lit Buildings in your area.

If you can get Ethernet, the cost savings can be substantial. A Fast Ethernet connection at 100 Mbps an easily be half the cost of a DS3 connection at 45 Mbps. The savings gets even better when you compare OC3, OC12, or OC48 to Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet.

What if you really need or want the cost savings of Ethernet but are nowhere near a carrier Point of Presence? Consider moving your equipment to "carrier hotel" or colocation facility. There you'll find multiple carriers offering a wide variety of standard and non-standard bandwidths at highly competitive prices. The construction costs are nil or minimal since you are in the same facility as the carrier's POP.

How much bandwidth can you get for the money? The answer depends on where you are located, where you might be willing to collocate, and how much of a bandwidth level and contract length you are willing to commit to. Don't spend a lot of time trying to run down these deals yourself. Let our team of expert bandwidth consultants review your needs and provide you with a suite of competitive options.

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

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