Newer technologies, namely Ethernet over Copper (EoC) and Ethernet over TDM (EoTDM), have expanded the range of bandwidths supported on already installed copper infrastructure. It’s now a smooth scale of steps between T1 and Gigabit or higher speeds.
Integra Telecom is one competitive carrier who has embraced the concept of augmenting their fiber optic network with Ethernet copper-based solutions. Integra is a major telecom services provider in eleven states, primarily in the Western US. Their 10 Gbps IP fiber backbone connects major cities throughout these states and also to Chicago, New York, Dallas and Ashburn, Virginia. It totals 5,000 miles of long haul and 3,000 miles of metro fiber.
From there, Integra is aggressively lighting new buildings for fiber service. Just during the first half of 2011, they had expanded their lit buildings by 20 percent or 300 new buildings. Even the most casual observer can see that fiber-based bandwidth is the future. Business automation, cloud connections and video transport are gobbling up Mbps and Gbps about as fast as they are deployed. But what do you do in economically constrained times to provide higher bandwidth levels to every business that needs them?
The answer is a two-pronged approach of complementing fiber network resources with copper-based last mile connections. Traditionally, this has meant T1 lines with DSL as a low end option. T1 provides excellent availability and rock solid bandwidth, albeit at 1.5 Mbps. Many businesses get around this limitation by installing multiple T1 lines bonded together to double or triple the bandwidth. This is a solid technical approach, but the upper limit is typically around 10 or 12 Mbps and the cost is a simple multiple of T1 cost times number of bonded lines.
Another hitch is that most competitive metro and wide area networks are now IP based. Previously the public switched telephone network was dominant using telco standards like TDM for digital transmission. Businesses today have IP networks in-house and often wish to connect them to other IP networks through Ethernet services such as E-Line and E-LAN. It would be ideal to keep everything on IP networks.
Integra Telecom recognizes this and bases their fiber/copper strategy on IP standards. The core network is already IP for metro and long haul connections. Where copper connections are needed, they are made using Ethernet over Copper or Ethernet over TDM.
The copper involved is the very same twisted pair copper that is already installed into nearly every business for multi-line telephone service and T1 data lines. That pretty much guarantees that businesses in the service footprint can get connected to the network one way or the other. Ethernet over Copper uses specialized equipment and multiple copper loops to deliver Ethernet bandwidth from the fiber network to the business LAN. Ethernet over TDM is similar, but uses T1 line technology to transport the Ethernet signal.
Why EoTDM? One tradeoff with EoC is that you can get a very wide range of bandwidths but over a limited distance. The closer you are to the central office that connects to your copper telco lines, the higher the EoC speeds available. EoTDM is not distance limited. T1 technology was designed for extended distances experienced by some customers who are located in smaller or more rural population areas. Integra has installed EoC equipment in 120 COs and EoTDM in nearly 300 COs throughout their Western service area.
Are you ready to move up to higher bandwidth levels, but stymied because you’ve been told there’s no fiber available? That may be old information, as carriers are aggressively building out their fiber assets. Even if fiber is not an option, you may be able to get bandwidth from 2 or 3 Mbps to over 100 Mbps on copper based connections to the fiber backbone. Check prices and availability of copper and fiber network services for your particular business locations.