Ethernet over Copper (EoC) is becoming the bandwidth service of choice for small and medium businesses. It offers the ease of Ethernet interfacing, ability to transport Ethernet services like E-Line, E-LAN and VPLS, relatively high bandwidths of 3 to 50 Mbps and even 100+ Mbps in select areas, all with provisioning over multiple twisted pair telco wiring that is already installed. Best of all, pricing is more than competitive. Where available, you’ll pay a lot less for EoC vs traditional telecom services like T1 or DS3 on an Mbps basis.
"Where available" is the catch. Ethernet over Copper technology has strict distance limitations. The modulation scheme that is used can transport high bandwidth levels, but signal levels fade rapidly as you get farther and farther away from the telco Central Office (CO). Within a mile or so you can get all sorts of bandwidth options using 2 to 8 twisted pair. As you start moving out to 2 or 3 miles away, signal levels degrade to the point where they are unusable even at low bandwidths.
That pretty much rules out EoC for most rural locations. Beyond the city limits, population densities are low and wire runs are long for telecom services. Fiber may be running right next to the gravel road you are standing on. The hitch is that there is no drop-off. The fiber just keeps on going to the next metropolitan area.
Now, there are exceptions. If you have a rural business location that luckily happens to be within a few thousand feet of the incumbent telephone company’s office, you may qualify for Ethernet over Copper services. What’s needed is for the telco or a competitive service provider to have EoC terminal equipment installed in that CO. You are less likely to find EoC equipment in smaller offices because of the limited number of businesses connected to that facility.
Don’t despair. As I said earlier, you may still have options. There is another way to transport Ethernet over copper lines with virtually unlimited reach. This is called Ethernet over DS1 or EoDS1. If DS1 sounds familiar, it’s because DS1 is the Digital Signal protocol used for T1 lines. DS1 is part of the half-century old T-Carrier specifications that define the technology for T1 and T3 lines. DS1 was originally developed to transport telephone conversations in groups of 24 channels or time slots within a time division multiplexed bit stream. Later, a concept called clear channel T1 was implemented to combine all those channels into one larger channel. That boosted bandwidth per channel from 64 Kbps up to 1.5 Mbps and made it practical to transport data using DS1.
DS1 defines the signal. T1 is the particular physical line consisting of 2 twisted pair copper telco wires with particular voltage and signal shape characteristics. Normally, DS1 and T1 go together. However, It is possible technically to transport Ethernet using DS1. What that means is that Ethernet can be sent over T1 lines. Since T1 was designed to use signal regenerators to boost sagging signal levels every mile or so, T1 service can go out into the boonies for miles, sometimes even 20 miles or more.
Ethernet over DS1 gives you the option to get Ethernet service where only T1 is available. You aren’t limited to the T1 line bandwidth of 1.5 Mbps. T1 lines can be bonded to increase bandwidth, which works for EoDS1 too. Add more lines and you get more bandwidth. It’s the number of lines bonded times 1.5 Mbps.
What about cost? EoDS1 doesn’t offer the same cost advantages as EoC because the price of T1 lines doesn’t go down if you bond more of them together. You have to pay for each line. EoDS1 also isn’t available from all carriers or in all locations.
What’s the best bandwidth solution for your company? It depends a lot on where you are located and what services you require. There’s an easy way to compare options. Simply get competitive quotes for Ethernet and other telecom services from multiple service providers, each tailored to your particular requirements.