Even if you are unaware of Fast Ethernet as a Metro or Carrier bandwidth service, you are no doubt familiar with the term. Fast Ethernet is the name given to 100 Mbps Ethernet. It is one of the standard LAN speeds, along with 10 Mbps Ethernet and 1,000 Mbps Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet. The abbreviation for Gigabit Ethernet is GigE. The next step up is 10 Gigabit Ethernet or 10 GigE.
Nearly all network devices, including PCs, printers, Ethernet switches, routers and servers have NICs (Network Interface Cards) that support Fast Ethernet. In fact, many smaller business LANs run at the Fast Ethernet speed of 100 Mbps. So, why do our WAN (Wide Area Network) connections run at some lower speed?
One reason is cost. WAN network services have tended to be seen as expensive. Part of that is because these are leased line services that are billed by the month, every month. LAN networks have a capital cost of purchase and installation. After that, most smaller networks need relatively little maintenance.
Another reason why we use lower bandwidths on the WAN than the LAN is usage. Most traffic within a company network stays on the LAN. A lot of it is between PCs & servers and for interoffice file transfers. Traffic that leaves the building is mostly Internet access for both websites and email. Companies with multiple business locations often have dedicated lines between them or use an MPLS network to interconnect 3 or more locations. These links get higher traffic, because they are functioning as in-house LAN connections.
A couple of forces are at work to change this situation. First of all, WAN bandwidth is going up simply because files are larger and video is becoming used more in business. A much larger effect is the move from in-house IT services to hosted services, including cloud services. This effectively moves the bulk of the traffic from LAN to WAN. Line speeds have to increase to accommodate this traffic increase, or access will slow to a crawl. Slow access spells lowered productivity in any business process.
Medium and larger companies outgrew their T1 lines long ago. Their upgrade path has been to T3 service, more popularly known as DS3. With DS3, you get 45 Mbps of bandwidth versus 1.5 Mbps over a T1 line. Your lease costs also goes up from hundreds to thousands of dollars a month.
DS3 has been essential for video streaming, ecommerce, large office Internet access, medical image transmissions and other bandwidth intensive operations. As a digital telecom service it has been readily available with costs that have come down over the years. So why not stick with DS3?
The reason, as usual, involves cost and bandwidth. The competing service is now Fast Ethernet at 100 Mbps vs DS3’s 45 Mbps. That’s over twice the bandwidth, but not twice the cost. In fact, you may well be able to get FastE for the same or less than you are paying for a DS3 connection. Consider that Fast Ethernet more closely mirrors the protocol run on the LAN and that both DS3 and FastE are delivered over fiber optic lines, and it’s hard to see why sticking with DS3 makes good business sense.
The one reason that DS3 may still be the right service for your company is that Carrier Ethernet services have not been deployed everywhere just yet. However, competitive carriers are aggressively building out their metro fiber networks and vying for business customers with lowered bandwidth prices.
Are you a DS3 user interested in getting more money for your bandwidth dollar? Or, do you need new installation of high speed line services and want to make sure you are getting the best deal? If so, check out Fast Ethernet vs DS3 pricing and availability now. Once you have the competitive options, you can choose what type and level of service makes the most sense for your operation.