It’s been brewing for a long time, now. The prediction is that all of those networking standards will finally settle on just one. No more T1, DS3, OCx and whatever. It’s all going to be just Ethernet one day. How close are we to that day? Why, we’re almost there!
Network Standards Have Already Embraced Ethernet
Telcos are doing something once thought heresy. They’re abandoning their proprietary standards in favor of Ethernet services.
Why? Because that’s what the market wants. Once upon a time, there were all sorts of Local Area Network standards. Can you remember when Token Ring was the coming thing? How about AppleTalk?
Today, virtually all network equipment has one connector and it is for Ethernet. There are really only two flavors: copper and fiber. Virtually all office equipment is either 10/100 or Gigabit Ethernet over twisted pair copper. Networking equipment may have fiber connections for GigE, 10 GigE or 100 GigE.
This standardization has make connectivity extremely easy. The standardization on switched Ethernet versus the original collision domains makes networking a fairly easy plug-and-play.
The same thing has happened to networking software. The Internet standard, TCP/IP has become the THE standard, further enhancing the ease of setting up and running networks.
Getting LANs to Talk Telco
When you own the network, you get to decide how it works. There’s nobody to tell you otherwise when you come up with a design that’s based on off-the-shelf massed produced switches, routers and cabling. The big problem comes when you try to connect to the outside world.
The Internet may have been based on TCP/IP, but the wide area networks that carried it were not. Telephone company standards evolved from the world of voice only channels for telephone calls. What T1, T3 (DS3) and OCx did was simply bundle the smallest channels, 64 Kbps PCM coded telephone calls.
Digital being digital, the solution was to perform a protocol conversion at each end so that Ethernet LAN would be converted to, say, T1 for transmission over some distance and then back to Ethernet at the other end. That process still works great and many T1 lines remain in use because they are sometimes all that is available in rural areas.
What’s Going Bye-Bye?
The major telecom companies have been quietly converting their networks to Ethernet for years. In many cases, this can be simply running Ethernet over some underlying fiber protocol like SONET. Competitive carriers have built out their facilities using Ethernet in the network core and never going through the TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) evolution.
What’s going on now is that telcos are asking the FCC for permission to sunset some of their older services, especially those that run on copper and don’t have many customers anymore. The standard POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) is an endangered species. Fewer and fewer residential users have the traditional “home phone.” They either get their phone service bundled with TV and Internet or simply depend on cellular for voice communications.
Businesses are following suit. Smaller companies may get voice and data bundles from cable companies or incumbent telcos that are acting like cable companies. Larger companies are moving rapidly to enterprise VoIP and Unified Communications. These don’t need traditional telephone wiring inside or outside the facility. Everything runs on the network. Outside connectivity is by SIP trunking, dedicated private line, MPLS networks or Dedicated Internet Access.
Is Copper a Goner?
Copper is still going, but who knows for how long. The telcos want to rid their plants of those thick copper bundles, especially the individual POTS lines.
T1 lines are still popular, but the 1.5 Mbps bandwidth is becoming more and more of a limitation. A newer standard, Ethernet over Copper, is highly competitive and offers an order of magnitude or more higher bandwidth at lower cost per Mbps.
Even so, fiber optic connections are reaching more and more business buildings as well as cellular towers. 4G and 5G wireless needs bandwidth beyond what is practical with twisted pair copper. It’s likely that all twisted pair copper may be abandoned to corrode in the ground or pulled out of conduits and sold for scrap. That’s not today in most areas, but it’s not that far away.
So, Where Can I Get Ethernet?
You can order Ethernet over Copper or Ethernet over Fiber in most populous areas right now. In rural locations, Ethernet over DS1 uses a T1 line to deliver Ethernet.
Don’t forget that Cable broadband is delivered to you as an Ethernet connection and FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) is also Ethernet at typically 1 Gbps.
Satellite and wireless Internet services are also delivered as Ethernet. That includes 3G and 4G cellular services designed for business use.
If you’ve been living with a legacy Internet or telecom connection and wondering if there is something better to choose from, there probably is now. Find out with a quick check of Ethernet services in your area and complementary consultation to help you choose the best solution for your business.