Yes, there are other bandwidth options available that can do the job that your current DS3 is doing. Let’s take a look at options available today that maybe didn’t exist when you signed your DS3 lease.
DS3 straddles the telecom border between copper wireline and fiber optic bandwidth services. It was originally part of the T-Carrier specifications developed by the Bell System for telephone trunking between switching centers. T-Carrier options include T1 and T3. DS3 is the service that rides on the T3 physical circuit.
Today the terms DS3 and T3 are used interchangeably. In practice, you’ll be hard pressed to find a T3 physical circuit. At one time they were available over microwave relay or waveguide pipes. The actual interface to your router is two coaxial cables with BNC connectors that plug into a DS3 interface module. Those cables have a distance limitation of 450 feet. So, how does DS3 service get from the Central Office (CO) to your location?
Most of the distance is covered by fiber optic cabling that doesn’t have this distance restriction. The DS3 signal is often multiplexed onto a higher bandwidth OC-3 SONET circuit. There may be other DS3 services sharing the same OC-3. Yours is dropped off at your building where it is converted to the industry standard coaxial connections.
This suggests a couple of alternatives to DS3. Before you jump into anything new, though, consider that you may not be getting the best price on your current DS3 service. Prices on telecom services in general have plunged in recent years owing to deregulation and considerable new competition. Perhaps the local telephone company was your only provider choice when you had the service installed. Now there may be several competing providers that are ready, willing and able to do the same job. Get multiple price quotes, preferable from a major bandwidth broker like Telarus, Inc., before you conclude that you need to dump your DS3 only for cost reasons.
Something else to consider is how much bandwidth you really need. Did you contract for DS3 because your T1 line was out of capacity? There’s a big gap between T1 at 1.5 Mbps and DS3 at 45 Mbps. Do you really need the full 45 Mbps or is that simply all that was available at the time?
If you really need, say, 10 Mbps, you can achieve it by scaling up from T1 or down from DS3. T1 lines are now readily bonded together to increase bandwidth. The practical limit is 10 or 12 Mbps without distance limitations. DS3 service can be rate limited to create what’s known as fractional DS3. In other words, you still have a DS3 interface installed but the actual line speed you pay for is 10 Mbps, 20 Mbps, 30 Mbps or some other option.
Both these approaches may save you money compared to what you pay now. An even more attractive option is Ethernet. With Ethernet over Copper you can get bandwidths ranging from 3 Mbps on the low end up to 45 Mbps and sometimes higher on the high end. Prices per Mbps are generally lower, sometimes even half the cost, than the older T1 and T3 technologies. The hitch with Ethernet over Copper is that it is distance sensitive. The farther you are from the CO, the lower the line speed you can achieve.
Ethernet over Fiber picks up where Ethernet over Copper leaves off. Fiber optic Ethernet service is often available from 10 Mbps on up to 10 Gbps. Popular options are 10 Mbps standard Ethernet, 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet and 1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet. The speed of the port installed at your facility sets the maximum, not minimum, speed you can achieve. Common practice is to install a 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps Ethernet port.
Fiber connections aren’t available for every building, but carriers have been so competitive in building out their networks that more locations that ever before are “lit” for fiber and others can be easily connected. Ethernet over FIber is easily scaled so that you can increase your bandwidth quickly by making a simple call to your provider. This means that you only need to order the bandwidth you need today along with a port speed capable of handling whatever speed you expect to need in the foreseeable future.
Ethernet over Fiber is a bargain compared to other telecom arrangements, if you can get it. If not, you might be able to get SONET fiber optic service to your premises. The lowest speed service is OC-3 at 155 Mbps, but in some cases this can be rate limited to provide fractional OC-3 service.
One final option is fixed wireless. This is unlike the lower speed 3G or 4G cellular wireless that is now available to business. Fixed wireless at 50 Mbps or more is a line of sight microwave service only available in major metro areas in the business districts. If your location qualifies, you can get fast and inexpensive installation compared to constructing a new fiber optic run.
So, how do you decide on the optimum solution for your company? Doing the research yourself can be time consuming and you may miss out on some opportunities that aren’t well advertised. Instead, run a quick online business bandwidth availability check for the options you want to consider and compare competitive pricing. You may be surprised by what has become available recently.
Note: Photo of BNC connector courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.