T1 was the first truly broadband network connection offered to business users. Before T1, you were dealing with dial-up over analog phone lines or fairly low speed digital lines running something like 64 Kbps. What T1 brought to the table was 1.5 Mbps of rock solid symmetrical bandwidth. As a synchronized line, it also supported digital telephony with up to 24 digitized phone conversations per T1 line. In fact, that’s the origin of T1. Bell Labs devised it to support efficiently transporting telephone conversations between switching offices.
The reason that T1 has become so popular is that it is a mature, reliable technology that is nearly universal available. T1 comes into your building on two pair of ordinary phone wire that is installed for multiple business lines. Even today, T1 lines are still being ordered by smaller businesses that need a dependable dedicated Internet or private line service but don’t have high bandwidth demands. Pricing has plunged over the years from well over a grand a month down to something in the range of $200 to $300. You may even find lower prices in highly competitive metropolitan areas.
So if T1 service is so wonderful, why would companies replace it with something else?
The problem is bandwidth. Over the last few decades, business processes and the applications that enable them have become much more sophisticated. Casual Web browsing and online ordering is still done, but now a lot of content is video and “big data” moving over the networks. The last straw is probably the move to cloud-based services. Before the cloud, your network traffic ran on your own LAN between users and servers. Now, all of that traffic has to traverse the WAN network. Only the smallest cloud implementations are satisfied by a mere 1.5 Mbps pipe.
T1 technology does accommodate higher bandwidths through a process known as bonding. Two bonded T1 lines double the available bandwidth to 3 Mbps. Bond four lines together for 6 Mbps. You can continue this expansion up to 10 or 12 Mbps before it becomes impractical.
The real limit to bonding T1 lines is affordability. There is no economy of scale. Each T1 line needs to be individually installed and costs the same. Therefore, you pay double for 2x bonding and quadruple the monthly lease price for 4x bonding with perhaps some small discount for multiple lines.
What’s moved in to replace T1 is a newer technology called Ethernet over Copper or EoC. Ethernet over Copper uses the same telco twisted pairs that support analog telephony and T1 lines. The modulation scheme is more efficient, though, and supports higher line speeds. It’s not at all unusual to get 10, 20 or 30 Mbps over copper lines.
Ethernet over Copper is also priced much lower per Mbps than T1 lines. Typical entry level is 3 Mbps EoC for the same price as a T1 line. That’s double the bandwidth for the same money. Even more attractive is 10 Mbps EoC for 2x to 3x the cost of a T1 line, depending on location.
The 10 Mbps bandwidth service level is becoming the most desirable price point. While you pay more for a10 Mbps EoC connection than a T1 line if both are ordered today, most companies ordered their T1 service years ago. They may have paid more than necessary because they only investigated one or two vendors. The result is that you may well be able to get 10 Mbps Ethernet over Copper for the same lease price as you have been paying for longstanding T1 service. Making the move to EoC can give you the higher bandwidth you need today without having to increase your monthly telecom budget.
Does your company really need more bandwidth to operate efficiently in today’s marketplace? If so, consider trading in your T1 lines for Ethernet over Copper or the higher speed Ethernet over Fiber service. The cost is probably much lower than you expect.