Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Middle Mile Bandwidth Solutions

Most businesses are concerned with last mile network connections. That’s the access bandwidth that connects their local network to their service provider. But what does the service provider connect to?

If you are buying your voice and data services from a larger carrier, they may own an entire network that spans the nation or a large regional area. Smaller service providers have what is called a middle mile connection to a wholesale bandwidth supplier that connects them to the Internet or a major carrier’s telephone switching network.

If your business is running a small metropolitan or rural Internet service provider or an independent telephone company, you’ve probably got an interest in middle mile bandwidth solutions. In rural areas, especially, it’s often expensive and sometimes difficult to get the middle mile connectivity you need. Any competitive service offerings are a welcome sight, even if it is only to validate the cost and performance of your current leased services.

What types of middle mile technologies are there? Fiber optic service comes first to mind. Fiber optic cables crisscross the country and are present not far from most locations. The irony is that you may be standing right on top of a fiber conduit and not be able to get service.

Fiber bundles are much like the interstate highway system. They transport massive amounts of traffic, but access points are limited. To get on the network you need the equivalent of a highway on-ramp. That’s the service middle mile connections perform.

There are three middle mile connection technologies to consider. Fiber optics certainly provides the highest bandwidths. Each strand of glass fiber can transport packets at a data rate of at least 10 Gbps. By using wavelength division multiplexing, basically using multiple non-interfering colors of light beams, you might have 128 or even 256 different 10 Gbps data streams in each strand. A fiber bundle might have dozens, even hundreds of glass fiber strands in one ruggedized trunk cable. That’s a LOT of bandwidth capacity.

The problem with fiber optic connections is that there aren’t a lot of places to plug-in for service. Carriers have POPs or Points of Presence in major metropolitan areas. But between these termination points there are miles and sometimes hundreds of miles of installed fiber cable running point to point. Some carriers are pursuing government financing under the rural broadband improvement project to build-out more middle mile fiber lines in rural areas. This will make it easier for ISPs and telcos in sparsely populated areas to get high bandwidth connections at lower prices.

Another connection technology is wireless. Point to point microwave transmission is cheaper and quicker to install than fiber optic cabling. The newest technology is WiMAX, which can be used as a middle mile backhaul service as well as a public access wireless broadband transmission service. WiMAX has a range of up to 30 miles, making it a good solution to feed remotely located transmission towers.

A technology you might not think of for middle mile services is bundled T1 lines. A T1 line has a bandwidth of only 1.5 Mbps, making it more suitable as a last mile connection for business locations. But multiple T1 lines can be connected essentially in parallel to create larger bandwidths up to 10 or 12 Mbps. That may be all a cellular tower or WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) needs for middle mile connectivity. The advantage of T1 is that it runs on twisted pair copper and can be easily boosted or regenerated over long distances. That means that bundled T1 service can reach out into rural areas where other services aren’t available.

Newer modulation techniques let multiple copper pair also transport Ethernet in a technology known as EoC or Ethernet over Copper. EoC bandwidths are often similar to bundled T1 lines, but may be as high as 45 Mbps in metropolitan areas.

Are you in need of connectivity for your independent telephone company or Internet service? If so, see what middle mile bandwidth solutions are available for your location.

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

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