The nature of telecommunications services has changed dramatically in recent years. The two biggest changes are cost savings that come from a flurry of new competitive service providers and the introduction of new technologies that offer additional services.
You can still get most of the telecom services that were available a decade or so ago. The most popular line service is T-carrier, especially the T1 line. T1 is a telephone company technology and comes in several flavors. The original use was a digital trunk to carry multiple phone calls between telco switching centers or into a multi-line business phone system. An upgraded version of the T1 telephone line is called T1 PRI or ISDN PRI. It gives you up to 23 outside phone lines plus a data channel for dialing, switching and Caller ID. Nearly every PBX phone system and many key telephone systems can be easily configured to use T1 PRI.
Another use for T1 lines is to provide point to point connectivity between two business locations. A point to point T1 line offers 1.5 Mbps in both directions simultaneously. If you need more bandwidth than this, you can get bonded T1 service that combines multiple T1 lines up to about 10 or 12 Mbps total.
A related service is the T1 access line. This is a last mile connection to a larger network. At one time, the larger network was called Frame Relay. Nowadays, MPLS networks have taken over this role of connecting business locations on a regional, national or international basis. MPLS networks have the advantages of nearly unlimited bandwidth that can transport just about any voice, data or video protocol.
T1 Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) is the choice for broadband Internet access for many smaller businesses. The cost is only a fraction of what it was a decade ago. As a professional grade telecom service, you enjoy a reliability and constant bandwidth not typical of consumer oriented services like DSL and Cable.
The new competition to T1 lines is coming from Carrier Ethernet services, including Metro Ethernet. Like T1, Ethernet is a wireline service. Also like T1, it is delivered on multiple twisted pair copper wiring for lower bandwidth services. That copper wiring is generally already installed for multi-line telephone service. Ethernet offers the same point to point and Internet connections you may be using with T1 lines now. But Ethernet can also give you layer 2 switched network service between several or more locations around town or over a wider area, including overseas offices.
Ethernet is gradually taking over from T1 in metropolitan areas where it is most available. A popular service is 3 Mbps Ethernet for about the same price as a 1.5 Mbps T1 line. For more demanding uses, 10 Mbps Ethernet is becoming a popular standard.
Once you get into the higher bandwidths, 45 Mbps and above, fiber optic cabling takes the place of twisted pair copper. DS3 is the T-carrier upgrade to T1. It is now delivered over SONET fiber optic services at 45 Mbps. The Ethernet equivalent is 50 Mbps Ethernet service, although Fast Ethernet at 100 Mbps is an industry standard and the speed of many local networks. Like copper-based Ethernet services Ethernet over Fiber tends to offer much lower costs per Mbps than equivalent traditional SONET telecom services.
You should also know that both T1 and Ethernet services have an option to get both telephone and Internet over the same line. Integrated T1 is the legacy wireline service. SIP trunking is the IP service that gives you VoIP telephony and broadband Internet access.
Have you been wondering if you are paying too much for the wireline services you’ve just kept renewing over the years? Find out by getting up to date quotes for both Ethernet and T1 or SONET wireline services from dozens of competitive service providers. The range of services and their current costs may astound you.
Note: Photo of multipair cable courtesy of Wikimedia Commons