Carrier Ethernet is now the service to pursue at medium and high bandwidth speeds. These service levels have been dominated by DS3 or T3 lines at 45 Mbps and SONET OCx for higher line speeds over fiber optic cable. Ethernet bandwidth has a cost advantage for this need and also provisioning flexibility.
It’s common knowledge that low and mid-band Ethernet services are readily available over twisted pair copper wiring. In other words, the same telco wires that you currently use for analog business phone lines and T1 lines can also be used to transport Ethernet protocol. The service requires specialized equipment at each end and multiple copper pairs. This is Ethernet over Copper. Bandwidth levels vary from 1 Mbps on up 100 Mbps and beyond. A 200 Mbps service is available in some areas and a new 400 Mbps asymmetrical Internet access is being rolled out.
Most companies opt for Ethernet as a last mile connection to the Internet, metro or wide area MPLS network with bandwidth up to 50 Mbps. This is a direct replacement for their existing copper wire T1, bonded T1 or DS3 connections. By moving up the speed range to 100 Mbps to 400 Mbps, Ethernet can directly replace such fiber optic services as OC-3 at 155 Mbps and perhaps OC-12 at 622 Mbps.
All of this is done over up to 8 bonded copper pair at distances that don’t exceed a few thousand feet to a few miles from the telco central office. This is no problem in densely populated business districts, but as you move out into the burbs, small cities and rural areas, service becomes less available. Ethernet over Copper has a definite distance limitation.
Fast Ethernet at 100 Mbps may be available over copper, but Ethernet over Fiber is a better bet. The beauty of fiber is that once you have it installed and your building is “lit”, just about any bandwidth is possible. That includes FastE, of course, at 100 Mbps, GigE or Gigabit Ethernet at 1,000 Mbps and 10 GigE or 10 Gigabit Ethernet at 10,000 Mbps.
Ethernet over Fiber is available from traditional telephone companies, but it is also available from competitive carriers who have built their own IP-core regional and national networks with Ethernet as a standard service. These companies can bring Ethernet right to your building without having to lease any telephone company facilities. This gives them the ability to offer more bandwidth for less money. You may save half or more for equivalent service levels at the higher bandwidths.
A new wrinkle is Ethernet over Fiber offered by Cable MSOs. This fiber was bought and paid for by the Cable Television industry, but has so much extra bandwidth available that these companies are offering access to their fiber optic networks to businesses and other organizations that need anywhere from 10 to 1000 Gbps. That includes Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet at prices that are up to half the cost of other fiber providers.
The options are many and the prices are very attractive right now. There is lots of bandwidth to go around, which may not be true when the economy takes off again. If you need to speed up your networks, you can lock in some excellent deals. Check prices and availability for GigE and FastE bandwidth services appropriate for your business location.