Ethernet has moved from the LAN to the MAN to the WAN. That gives companies the opportunity to extend their networks across town, across the country and even internationally. But what about the Internet? What does Ethernet have to do with the Internet?
Ethernet and the Internet have been closely coupled from the beginning. The Internet is based on IP routing, not legacy telco circuit switching. But the Internet would have gone nowhere without telco technologies such as T1, DS3, and SONET/SDH (OC3, OC12, OC48, etc.) That’s because the telephone companies owned the digital lines and their mature technologies. The sensible and cost effective approach has been to do what is necessary to use these existing services to transport IP packets as well as other voice and data traffic.
That brings us to access. What do you have to connect with the Internet? It’s likely a T1 line, DS3 connection or a fiber optic service based on SONET. Very small businesses may be using DSL, Cable broadband, two-satellite or 3G & 4G cellular wireless. Why not use Ethernet as your last mile connection?
That’s a good question. In fact, it makes more sense now to install a broadband Ethernet connection to the Internet than ever before. The technology is proven and already deployed to most major cities and suburbs. What’s more, it will probably save you money.
The most popular and lowest cost Ethernet broadband services use Ethernet over Copper or EoC technology. This appears to be similar to T1 technology in that it is based on using twisted pair copper wires to bring the service into your building. Chances are that you have the wiring in place already for multi-line telephone service and perhaps a T1 line or two.
Ethernet over Copper offers dedicated Internet access, just like T1, where you have a committed bandwidth level that does not vary and is not shared with other users. The technologies are a bit different in that the EoC interface to your LAN is a simple Ethernet connector. If you are already using a managed T1 router, that may not be important because the interface is already handled by the service provider and you simply connect your edge router to the T1 router.
You’ll notice a difference in bandwidth scalability. T1 lines are designed around a fixed bandwidth of 1.5 Mbps. If you want more, you bond additional T1 lines in 1.5 Mbps increments. This is practical up to around 10 Mbps before it become too expensive for most applications. Ethernet over Copper bandwidth typically starts at 2 Mbps, with 3 Mbps a popular speed for about the same price as a single 1.5 Mbps T1 line. But EoC can easily deliver 5 Mbps, 10 Mbps, 15 Mbps and even 20 Mbps. If you order a port with enough capacity, you can often just call your service provider and have them increase your Ethernet bandwidth at will.
What about higher bandwidths? Above 20 Mbps, perhaps as high as 50 Mbps, you’ll need to switch to a fiber optic connection that offers almost unlimited bandwidth expansion. Once again, Ethernet over Fiber is as scalable as Ethernet over Copper. A Fast Ethernet speed of 100 Mbps is very popular because it is also a standard LAN speed. Larger organizations or more demanding applications will want 1 Gbps or Gigabit Ethernet speed. If you need it, 10 Gbps and even 40 Gbps or more is available.
Broadband Ethernet is not available for residential or home office users. For businesses with their own business addresses, you can get pricing and availability on broadband Ethernet services for whatever bandwidths you are interested in. Costs are very attractive, although Ethernet is a metro service and not readily available in rural areas. For those locations, you’ll need to stick with T1 and bonded T1 solutions.