Not any more. Ethernet connections have become established and far more common than you might think. This does include the lower bandwidth options over twisted pair copper, but it also includes high speed services over fiber optic connections. With fiber, you can pretty much have all the bandwidth you care to pay for. That payment may also be a lot less than you think.
Ethernet over FIber or EoF offers a set of high bandwidth services that meet the specifications of the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF). All together, these standardized services are referred to as Carrier Ethernet as distinguished from Ethernet that runs on a local area network. These two types of Ethernet are highly compatible. Carrier Ethernet runs in the switched configuration only. There is no CSMA/CD capability. This is actually the way most networks run today. Nearly all use switching and routing to gain full duplex performance. Carrier Ethernet also has provisions for OAM or Operations, Administration and Maintenance that is needed by carriers to ensure that the link keeps working reliably.
There are some real advantages in having standardized services available that meet the MEF requirements. Like standardized equipment, you know what you are getting and that it will interoperate or work with similar services from other vendors. Part of the rapid expansion of Carrier Ethernet is due to the ability of exchanging traffic between service providers through an Ethernet NNI or Network to Network Interface. All carriers have limited fiber optic assets and would be constrained by their own service footprints if they couldn’t interconnect with other carriers. By entering into traffic sharing arrangements, it is possible for carriers to span the nation and the globe.
Two of the standard Ethernet services you may be interested in are E-Line or Ethernet Line and E-LAN or Ethernet LAN service. E-Line is the equivalent of the point to point private line available with T-Carrier and SONET telecom services. E-LAN is something different. This is a multipoint connection that can be used to network multiple business locations as if they were on the same bridged LAN. Everything operates at layer 2 so that switched Ethernet is available across town or to the other side of the globe.
Carrier Ethernet connections are through ports on a UNI or User Network Interface. Typical fiber optic port speeds mirror standard LAN speeds of 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, 1000 Mbps GigE and 10,000 Mbps 10GigE. This differs a bit from standard telecom services that have unique circuit interfaces for T1, DS3, OC-3, OC-12, OC-48, etc. Many carriers find it easy to install Gigabit Ethernet ports as a standard practice and then rate limit the bandwidth to the amount ordered by the customer.
The port itself will accept traffic at any speed up to the limit of the port capability. Let’s say that’s 1 Gbps. Since you have only ordered and are paying for 150 Mbps bandwidth, that’s what you’ll have on your Ethernet Line or LAN service. The real beauty of this system becomes apparent when you need to upgrade from 150 to 500 Mbps. All you need to do is call your service provider and notify them of the change. They’ll adjust the rate limit to increase your bandwidth up to the 500 Mbps level. There is no physical change to any of the equipment in the signal path. That means the change can be implemented in a matter of days or hours rather than weeks or months.
Ethernet bandwidth services often have many bandwidth increments available. You don’t have to jump from 150 to 500 Mbps. You may be able to get 200, 250, 300, 400 or some other increment offered by the carrier. Most carriers have a fine layer of granularity available because it’s all done in software.
Can you make good use of fiber optic Ethernet connections to the Internet or other business locations? If so, get prices, features and bandwidth levels available for optical Ethernet connections to your business location.
Note: Photo of Earth from space at night courtesy of NASA on Wikimedia Commons.