Outside network connections break down into categories. Are you looking for something to get you across town? Those are the Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN). How about something that will take you to another state, across the country or overseas? Those are the Wide Area Networks (WAN). Perhaps all you want is a broadband connection to the Internet. No problem. Internet access is readily available for business users. There’s much more to choose from than in the consumer marketplace. The tradeoff is that you'll be paying something more than consumer prices.
Many metro and wide area network services are more alike than different. What you are probably seeking is a dedicated point to point service or a multipoint mesh network. Point to point private lines have been the domain of the telecom industry using standards developed for digital telephony. T1 lines are classic. They give you dedicated bandwidth of 1.5 Mbps in both the upload and download directions. When T1 is not enough, you can bond T1 lines together to incrementally increase bandwidth up to about 10 or 12 Mbps. At that point most companies jump to T3 (DS3) service at 45 Mbps and then SONET fiber services, starting with OC-3 at 155 Mbps.
There’s a new service widely available today that fills in the gap between T1 & T3 and costs less as well. This is Ethernet over Copper or EoC. Ethernet over Copper actually starts at 2 or 3 Mbps and has become a strong competitor to T1 lines. You can get twice the bandwidth with EoC for the same price as T1. The other advantage of EoC is that bandwidth levels increment smoothly past 10 Mbps. You can easily get 15, 20, 25, 30 or up to 45 Mbps. That lets EoC take on T3 / DS3 services with better pricing. In some areas, EoC goes right up to 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet and beyond. Those levels aren’t so widely available as of yet.
Another advantage of what’s called Carrier Ethernet is that you can get multipoint service as well as point to point. This is great for interconnecting multiple business locations in town or around the country. Each location needs an Ethernet over Copper connection. The service provider sets up the mesh network per standards of the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), an industry standards group.
There is also a competitor to SONET fiber optic services called Ethernet over Fiber (EoF). It works the same as EoC, but runs on fiber rather than twisted pair copper. The advantages are high bandwidth levels up to 10 Gbps and better pricing than traditional SONET telecom services.
When it comes to interconnecting multiple locations, especially foreign sites, MPLS networks have become the network connectivity option of choice. Why? Because these networks are already installed and running to many locations you want to go. What you need are on-ramps in the form of last mile connections. They can be as simple as T1 lines or EoC links. You can also install fiber optic lines to get higher bandwidth levels. MPLS can give you point to point, point to multi-point, or meshed network connections. Because the core network is already in place, pricing is very attractive compared to dedicated private lines that require engineering time and effort.
In addition to copper and fiber, fixed wireless connectivity is more available than ever. That’s thanks to the buildout of 3G and 4G networks by the cellular carriers. You can get business grade fixed wireless on these networks with bandwidth similar to T1 lines for such activities as credit card verification and network backup. Prices are very attractive, since the cellular carriers bore the cost of construction and paid for it from consumer smartphone data and voice contracts.
What sort of connection or connections do you need to connect your company network to suppliers, customers and your own operations? Compare network connectivity options and pricing for copper, fiber and wireless services to see what has become available recently.