Just what is it about EoC that presumes to place it in the same category as fiber optics? Perhaps surprisingly, it’s both bandwidth and cost.
Traditional fiber optic services are based on the SONET or Synchronous Optical NETwork standard developed by the telephone industry. SONET services start with OC-3 at 155 Mbps. This is 3x the speed of DS3 or T3 service. More importantly, SONET was designed to be compatible with T-Carrier standards so that T1 lines and DS3 services can be readily transported on SONET. It is common practice for these copper-based services to hitch a ride on fiber optic carriers for long haul connections.
The beauty of fiber is that it has nearly unlimited bandwidth potential. When fiber optic cable is brought in, it’s not just a small diameter cable with a couple of fiber strands. There are almost always dozens if not a hundred or more fiber strands in that cable. Why? Because the big cost is in the construction. Trenching underground, installing conduit and pulling the fiber cable is way more expensive than the difference between a very small fiber cable and a larger one.
How about the fiber bandwidth? Each strand can easily transport 10 Gbps or more. If you add coarse or dense wavelength division multiplexing to send multiple beams on each fiber strand, you can ramp that bandwidth capacity up by 10 to 100x. Future technology advancements may increase capacity even further. It’s clearly going to be a very long time before businesses start to “fill up” their fiber optic cable capacity... once they have it.
Therein lies the rub. The reason that almost 2/3 of business locations still don’t have fiber optic service is that the construction costs are overwhelming. You need to be reasonably near a carrier’s service and then pony up to have a drop run to your building and the termination equipment installed. More and more buildings are being “lit” for fiber optic service every day. Some day every business location will be pre-wired for fiber just like they are for telephone and electricity. That day may be well off in the future, however.
So, where does this option of EoC come in? One main selling point for Ethernet over Copper is that you may be able to avoid construction costs completely. The copper involved is nothing more than twisted pair telco wire that runs between your building and the telephone company’s nearest central office (CO). Residential lines typically contain 2 pair. Business cables can easily have 25 or more copper pair installed as a matter of course. Some of these are used for business telephone lines. Others can be used for T1 lines. Still others can be employed for Ethernet over Copper. What’s important is that your CO has EoC termination equipment installed.
Let’s say that you can get Ethernet over Copper service at your location. What’s available and what does it cost?
EoC carriers use up to 8 unused copper pair to provision your service. More pairs mean higher bandwidth. How much depends on the CO equipment and how long the copper run is. Within a few miles of the CO, you can generally get 10 Mbps, 20 Mbps, even as much as 45 Mbps over 8 pair. In some situations that can be pushed to over 100 Mbps if you are mere blocks away from the CO, which is not that unusual in metropolitan areas. The 45 Mbps level is popular because it is a direct replacement for DS3 bandwidth that is most often transported over fiber.
How about the cost? EoC is typically half the cost of T-Carrier or SONET bandwidth or you can get twice the bandwidth for the same money. For instance, many smaller companies are upgrading to 3 Mbps for the same price as their older 1.5 Mbps T1 line. In addition to lower monthly lease prices, construction costs are minimal to zero compared to new fiber construction.
EoC can effectively compete with lower level fiber optic services because many companies have been forced to make the jump from T1 to DS3 to OC3 because of limited options. Really all they needed was 10 or 20 Mbps, but those are not standard telecom line speeds. Ethernet services are far more scalable, with increments of 1 or 5 Mbps rather than large jumps. You can often increase your service bandwidth by simply making a phone call to your provider. No equipment changes are necessary as long as you are below the maximum port bandwidth.
Should you be considering EoC in place of fiber optic services? Get current pricing for Ethernet over Copper and Fiber as well as SONET optical services to see what works best for your business location.