The acceleration of Ethernet services into traditional metropolitan and long distance telecom networks points out that the digital network, particularly the local area network, has become the center of communications activity. Worldwide traffic was primarily telephone calls until recently. Actual voice conversations are now the small part of the traffic. Data file transfers and video are now the big network activities. In fact, video has taken over the Internet and is driving the deployment of more and faster content delivery networks (CDN) to offload high definition video programming from the Internet.
Think about how you communicate. The office desk phone used to be the primary tool for business communications. “Data” was on paper and the interoffice mail was the network that moved it around. Today, you are as likely to use email, text messages and social media as you are to pick the phone and dial somebody. Data is now on hard drives and electronic data networks move it around. Even cell phones are still called “phones” out of tradition. Texting, Tweeting, emailing and posting are used as much or more than the voice side of the system. Wireless voice channels have been established technology for years. All the scrambling and innovation is focused on building more and faster data channels.
The switchover of the worldwide electronic communications network from telegraphy to telephony to computer data networking has taken place in steps with one methodology gradually yielding to another. Most long distance computer links use trunk lines originally designed to transport telephone calls digitally. The process of using analog phone lines to carry digital signals, called “dial-up,” ran out of capacity quickly at less than 100 Kbps. Digital telephone trunks, known as T1 lines, DS3, and SONET fiber optic services, start at 1.5 Mbps on the low end and go up to 100 Gbps on the very high end.
This system works, but the translation of loading data packets into telephone channels and then back again costs in efficiency and a limitation of network services. Since nearly every LAN is now running Ethernet, the most sensible change is to re-work the metro and long haul networks to also use Ethernet. You can then optimize for one protocol from end to end.
One technology shift that has enabled long distance or “Carrier” Ethernet is the industry shift from the original collision domains to switched Ethernet. This change doubled the speed of the links, since nodes can transmit and receive at the same time. More importantly, there is no need to constrain the length of the network to ensure detection of colliding packets. Nearly all LANs now use switches in place of hubs as a matter of course. This adds the possibility of running very long connections between switches, say 1,000 miles or more, and still create networks that behave like one large LAN.
Some of the latest announcements in this field are that a major carrier, Windstream, is now offering a product called Carrier Switched Ethernet. This is a wholesale bandwidth service that allows other carriers access to Windstream’s 980 network exchanges. Using E-NNI or Ethernet Network to Network Interfaces greatly expands the service footprint of any network to include the networks of other service providers. Another announcement is that MegaPath, a major North American network service provider, has been building out its Ethernet over Copper (EoC) capability so that it is now the largest EoC provider in the country with 19 major markets serving millions of businesses at speeds up to 45 Mbps. That’s significant because it means you can now get last mile Ethernet connections over twisted pair copper lines, replacing bonded T1 lines and DS3 bandwidth.
The triple threat of Ethernet over Copper, Ethernet over Fiber and Ethernet Network to Network Interfaces creates the opportunity to go “all Ethernet” in connecting multiple business location and dedicated access to the Internet. There are big cost savings available with this new technology, as well as multi-point mesh network services that were hard to implement previously. Could your company benefit from these Ethernet services? Check Carrier Ethernet pricing, availability and features and compare with what you are using now.