Broadband Internet connections come in many flavors. These include DSL, 3G & 4G cellular, PTP microwave wireless, cable DOCSIS, two-way satellite, T1 lines, DS3 bandwidth, SONET fiber optic, and both Ethernet over Copper and Ethernet over Fiber. Each of these has cost and performance advantages and disadvantages. One technology, however, offers the best match for most business applications. It’s the combination of Internet and Ethernet.
What makes Ethernet so attractive is the fact that it has almost completely taken over wired networks large and small. Do you have a LAN? What protocol are you running? Unless it’s something specialized for storage or industrial control, the answer is almost certainly Ethernet.
Being dominant has it’s advantages. From a technical standpoint, dominance means that nearly every piece of network equipment comes with Ethernet connectors built-in. In most cases, these are 10/100/1000 Mbps RJ-45 jacks. At higher speeds, 10 GigE and higher for sure, fiber optic connectors will be included.
It’s also not just that Ethernet standards permeate every network such that you have a hard time building one to some other protocol. How much do those alternative networks cost? The dominance of Ethernet has led to economics of scale. Ethernet is now the low cost solution by far. It’s also the solution that is sourced everywhere. You have no trouble picking up cable, connectors, switches, routers, and everything that plays on a network.
The One Laggard… The WAN
Local Area Networks are firmly ensconced with Ethernet technology. Outside the plant, however, it’s not so clear-cut. Wide Area Networks evolved from different standards pioneered by the telephone companies and were not originally intended for computers. Telephone networks were invented first and they were all analog, both wired and wireless. Then, starting mid-20th century, the T1 digital standard was introduced for multiplexing phone lines and long distance transmission. T1 expanded into T3/DS3 for higher speed, followed by fiber optic standards based on the same TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) protocol.
Since the phone companies pretty much owned all telecommunications networks, Ethernet packets had to learn to ride on what was available. That meant protocol conversion from Ethernet to T1, and so on. This is still the case for traditional telecom networks, although that’s changing fast.
Carrier Ethernet Moves to the Front
The old collision domains are long gone for the most part. Networks now are switched Ethernet. It turns out that the switched Ethernet protocol are quite compatible with long distance networks with a few additions to the standard for operations and maintenance. Those standards have been created and go by the name of Carrier Ethernet.
As you might suspect, Carrier Ethernet is merely an extension of LAN Ethernet. There really is no protocol-conversion speed bump traversing from one to the other. You plug your network into the carrier’s premises equipment and your packets travel seamlessly for hundreds or thousands of miles.
Ethernet and the Internet
The Internet was designed as a computer to computer network from the get-go. When we talk about IP networks, the IP means Internet Protocol. When we talk about Ethernet protocol, we are generally referring to IP and perhaps the file transfer standard, TCP/IP.
When the Internet started, there were only the telephone company networks available, so the Internet began running on legacy telco standards, particularly SONET fiber optic. That’s changing now. More and more networks are Ethernet at their core. Most newer networking providers design their networks as IP from the start and don’t go depend on handoffs to the telephone company central offices.
Either way, as long as you have Ethernet to your premises, you can ignore what’s going on at the core of the network.
Ethernet’s Big Advantages
Carrier Ethernet services come in a wide variety of speeds, but they all stick to the same Ethernet standard. You simply specify the maximum speed of the port that is installed at your location. That’s generally 1 Gbps these days, although you can also opt for 10 Gbps and, in some cases, 100 Gbps. The port sets the maximum, not the minimum, broadband speed you can order. In fact, many companies start at 10 or 100 Mbps and then upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet or beyond when they need to. That means they only pay for the bandwidth they need.
Ethernet services also tend to be less expensive than traditional telco services for the same bandwidth. It’s fairly common to get 3 Mbps for the same or less cost than a single 1.5 Mbps T1 line. You might even get 10 Mbps for the budget you originally set for T1 Internet service.
That last mile connection to the Internet via dedicate Ethernet Internet access means that your bandwidth is symmetrical, or the same in the upload and download directions. It is also dedicated to your use 100% of the time. With other services, such as cable or cellular broadband, the bandwidth is shared among customers. That makes it cheaper, but also means that your share will vary depending on how many others are using the service at the same time.
Ordering Ethernet Internet Service
The best place to get your business broadband service is from a bandwidth broker, like Telarus, who has relationships with many carriers. You’ll likely have multiple options to choose from. The two flavors you’ll most likely encounter are Ethernet over Copper for lower speed options and Ethernet over Fiber for 50 Mbps and up. Fiber is highly desirable if your building is already lit or construction costs are low. Otherwise, you can almost always get some type of copper based delivery.
Interested in finding out what options you have and what they cost? Run a quick search for fiber optic Ethernet service here and see what pops up.