Why the big change? The primary driver is cost savings, as it has always been. Cost savings has become an ongoing business process in this era of continuing austerity. But the real enabler is the availability of managed convergence. The carrier becomes your partner rather than simply a vendor. This relieves you of the burden of network management, especially WAN network management.
Level 3 has entered this space with its Converged Business Network solution. The idea is to use one bandwidth pipe for voice, Internet and VPN instead of three separate pipes. In one example, Level 3 replaces three separate T1 lines at 1.5 Mbps each with a single 3 Mbps connection that handles everything. That 3 Mbps link could be bonded T1 lines, or it could be one of the newer Ethernet services. They show stand alone services at $ + $ + $ being reduced to converged services for $.
A 3 to 1 reduction? That’s not unreasonable. After all, 3 Mbps Ethernet over Copper services are often priced about the same as a single T1 line.
How can you get a 3:1 line cost reduction without destroying quality of service? The answer is in two pieces. First of all, the bandwidth reduction isn’t that dramatic. You are going from 4.5 Mbps to 3 Mbps. Cost is going down faster than bandwidth. Second, the question assumes fully loaded line services. That’s seldom the case. Many companies have T1 lines because that’s the smallest commercial grade line service available to them. They wind up ordering 3 lines in order to keep voice, Internet and VPN applications separate so they won’t interfere. In reality, only a fraction of that available 4.5 Mbps is needed at any given time.
This is how a converged 3 Mbps WAN network can do the same job cheaper. QoS or quality of service controls are maintained on that connection so that time sensitive voice packets have priority over less time-sensitive data packets. At times when there are fewer telephone conversations in progress, that bandwidth is released for use by the broadband Internet or VPN services. This is called dynamic bandwidth allocation. In a situation with separate lines, any unused capacity simply goes to waste. It is not available for any other use.
A converged voice and Internet service called Integrated T1 has been on the market for years. However, its availability has been spotty and its focus has been on traditional analog and PBX telephony rather than the more advanced features of enterprise VoIP systems. Level 3’s service goes way beyond Integrated T1 with Ethernet connection speeds up to 100 Mbps as a standard package. That makes it an attractive service for medium and larger companies that long ago outgrew their T1 lines.
Is your company on the lookout for ways to save money while preserving quality of services? If so, you should inquire about the cost and benefits of network convergence. You could be missing out on a major advantage for your business.