Monday, October 17, 2011

Who Still Needs a T1?

With all the hoopla over copper and fiber Ethernet, plus new options in Cable broadband, that stalwart of business connectivity, the T1 line, is getting little fanfare these days. Does that mean that T1 is on its last legs? Or, is there a future for this proven telecom service?

T1 lines are available almost everywhere in the USA...Far from fading out, T1 is as popular as ever. New installations are being provisioned as you read this. The fact that T1 has been around for decades is one of its strongest features. That and the decline of T1 prices in tandem with competing Ethernet over Copper services are keeping T1 in the game.

So, who really needs T1? You do if you need professional grade dedicated bandwidth, secure point to point connections, or robust telephone trunking. That’s especially true if your business location is a bit off the beaten track. If you can’t get any wireline service other than plain old telephone, you probably can get a T1 line installed.

T1 has almost universal connectivity today. To understand how that can be when DSL and Cable rarely go past the city limits and Ethernet services are mostly found in business districts, we have to look back at why T1 was developed in the first place. We think of T1 lines as wide area network connections today, but in the beginning T1 was a telephone trunking system.

Prior to WWII, telephone companies connected to each other through analog lines on telephone poles or underground cables. Carrier telephony used a frequency division multiplexing scheme to load multiple conversations onto a single pair. In the 1950’s, Bell Labs developed digital multiplexing to replace the analog systems. The basic digital trunk was defined in the T-Carrier specifications. T-Carrier includes T1 and T3 lines.

The genius behind the design of T1 is that it runs on two pair of ordinary twisted pair copper. This is the subscriber loop connection that is installed in every business for telephone service. The wires are the same, but the signals on a T1 line are digital, not analog. While one copper pair can carry one business phone line, two copper pair can carry 24 phone lines or a digital bandwidth connection of 1.5 Mbps.

Another smart thing about the design of T1 is that provisions were made to boost the signal so that it can connect far flung locations. Not every business location is within a few thousand feet of a telco central office. Even analog signals fade out with distance. The much higher digital signal frequencies fade out much quicker. That’s why DSL is hard to come by. Unless you are close to the phone company CO, the DSL signal has little bandwidth capability left by the time it gets to your place.

The T1 support system was designed with a device called a regenerative repeater that can be installed in the line every mile or so to complete regenerate the signal. The noisy and faded input signal is boosted and reshaped so that at the output it looks like what comes out of the central office. Keep adding these repeaters and you can extend T1 service far out into the countryside.

If you have a business on the edge of town or in a remote location, you may still be able to get a T1 line for a reasonable price. The only real competition is two way satellite broadband. It works, but has very long latency times that make telephone service perform poorly, is subject to rain and snow outages, and has download limitations. If you exceed your quota, your speed will be reduced so that you don’t hog the limited resources of the satellite.

T1 has none of those problems. You get a rock solid 1.5 Mbps in both the upload and download direction. Load it full up with data transfers 24/7 or use what you need, the price is the same. Latency is negligible for most applications. In fact, T1 works great as a multi-telephone service or in the ISDN PRI configuration that supports most PBX telephone systems. You don’t have to get an Internet only data connections. T1 lines can be ordered between two business locations for a private line connection.

Is T1 the right service for your needs? Check T1 prices and availability instantly and compare with other options... if there are any that are suitable.

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