Tuesday, July 27, 2021

DOCSIS 4.0 Expands 10 Gbps Cable Broadband

By: John Shepler

Fiber Optic service is expanding faster and farther than ever. It’s the gold standard in the quest for unlimited business bandwidth. Many businesses, frustrated by their inability to get fiber lit into their buildings or locked-out by the high cost of fiber construction, turn to their next best option: Cable broadband. Now the latest cable standard, DOCSIS 4.0, brings symmetrical streaming and increased upload speeds to ordinary coaxial copper cable service. Would you believe 10 Gbps download and 6 Gbps upload? Fiber has some serious competition from cable.

DOCSIS 4.0 offers 10 Gbps over CableWhat is DOCSIS?
DOCSIS is the technology that enables traditional cable TV providers to also offer broadband Internet service on the same cable at the same time. The term is an acronym for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. It is the product of Cable Television Laboratories, Inc., CableLabs, a non-profit group supported by the cable system operators.

DOCSIS has evolved along with the Internet. The original spec was DOCSIS 1.0 released in 1997 and defined standards for 40 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. VoIP and QoS mechanisms were added by the early 2000’s, along with a boost in upstream data rates to 30 Mbps.

A significant improvement was introduced with DOCSIS 3.0 in 2006. Now cable companies could offer 1 Gbps downstream and 200 Mbps upstream with channel bonding. Support for IPv6 was also introduced at this time. With these improvements, it could be said that cable was a serious competitor to fiber optic services.

DOCSIS 3.1 in 2013 increased maximum downstream capacity to 10 Gbps with 1 to 2 Gbps upstream and is widely embraced by cable operators. DOCSIS 4.0, the latest version, increased the upstream rate to 6 Gbps in 2017. DOCSIS 4.0 is still in the early stages of production testing and deployment. The ultimate plan is to have full duplex symmetrical bandwidth on cable of 10 Gbps.

How Can Copper Cable Run So Fast?
Truth be told, it’s been a lot of years since cable TV networks were built with coaxial copper cable from the antennas at the head-end all the way to individual households and business locations. Virtually all systems of any size now use a technology called HFC or Hybrid Fiber Cable. The core network is fiber optic cable just like fiber network providers operate. The difference is that those companies run fiber right to the demarcation point within the building, while cable service terminates the fiber somewhere in the neighborhood and the makes the final run with the familiar coaxial cable. It was HFC that really enabled cable providers to offer serious broadband service.

Access Cable Fiber Networks Directly
Cable networks serve extensive metropolitan areas and their suburbs. Multi-system operators have fiber that interconnects their networks and connects to the Internet backbone. Major cable companies have gotten into the business of competing directly with competitive fiber optic networks by offering businesses the option to connect to their fiber networks without going through the copper interface.

There are advantages in going the fully fiber route. You may be able to get faster speeds and fully symmetric and dedicated connections by avoiding the cable modem. Remember that cable broadband is an inherently shared service. You are on the same last-mile Internet connection as dozens or hundreds of your neighbors. As such, you may find the the congestion level and speed of service vary throughout the day. It all depends on what everybody else is doing.

This is the reason that businesses, especially those with significant business processes running in the cloud, opt for dedicated Internet access and point to point private lines. You can get those at low speeds with traditional telco services such as T1 lines and higher speeds with DS3 bandwidth, SONET fiber optic services, Ethernet over Fiber and MPLS networks.

What service will meet your needs depends on how sensitive your operations are to line speed and latency, along with jitter and congestion. Cable broadband, especially at the DOCSIS 3.0 and above levels, provides many, many businesses with highly usable and reliable service at excellent pricing levels. Other companies with more sensitive needs may need to access fiber itself and set up more dedicated and private connections to achieve the performance they require for maximum productivity.

Find out now what cable, fiber and twisted pair copper broadband options are available for your business and what each has to offer.

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Are T1 Lines Still Used?

By: John Shepler

In these days of gigabit fiber optic connections and cable broadband, it may seem quaint to talk about twisted copper pair lines for WAN networking service or Internet access. Yet, the venerable T1 line is still in use today. OK, but why would anyone choose this legacy technology option?

Check T1 prices and availability now!Who Needs a T1 Line?
In an ideal world, we’d be swimming in choices when it comes to networking offerings. Some people actually are, but you’ll find them in the commercial districts of major U.S. cities. Every networking provider wants to serve New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. How about out where the cows moo, well beyond the incorporated limits of podunk towns that dot the countryside? Any takers?

No, not so much. The problem is that we, as a country, haven’t accepted Internet access as a basic utility yet. Time was when electricity was in the same category. It was considered a luxury item. By 1936 it was obvious that standard AC electrical power was of strategic importance to the country and should be distributed everywhere. Thus, the Rural Electrification Act brought power lines into every farm, ranch and rural homestead. Everybody got the same quality of electrical service regardless of where they were located.

Fast forward to today. Broadband Internet access is still widely considered to be an optional service for businesses and home use despite the fact that you can hardly access a government service, take a school course or run any sort of business without getting online. So, you either pony up for whatever service is available in your area, do everything on your phone, or settle for shared options like the public library or free WiFi hotspots.

How T1 Fits In
T1 lines are no screaming broadband service by any stretch of the imagination. But they work and work well, often in places where even wireless service is unavailable.

How’s that possible? it’s by design. The original purpose of the T1 Carrier System was to transport multiple telephone conversations on a single digital line. That’s right. It’s a phone company invention that was intended for phone company office use. What T1 did was replace up to 24 telephone wires strung on poles between offices with a pair of lines that carried all 24 calls at once without them interfering with each other.

As a telephone company standard, T1 was designed to use ordinary twisted pair wiring just like plain old telephone service. it was also designed with repeaters spaced every mile or so to boost the signal so it could reach as far as needed.

When the Internet came along decades later, T1 was already heavily in use for phone service. The local phone companies began to offer it to businesses as an upgrade to the dial-up Internet access of the time. T1 was considered broadband in the ’90’s. Instead of carrying multiple phone calls, a T1 line provides 1.5 Mbps of always-on and dedicated bandwidth. There’s no competition with other users and no busy signals.

T1 Lines Today
Just as you can still get landline telephone, you can still get a T1 line installed for your business. Some businesses have multiple phone lines coming into a local PBX phone system on a T1 line set up as ISDN PRI. At the same time, they may have another T1 line for Internet access or a T1 private point to point connection between two locations.

One thing that's changed over the years is that T1 is no longer the broadband of choice for most business users with other options. The other thing that has changed is that the price has come down dramatically from eye popping levels to something much more reasonable.

What you get for your monthly lease is a rock solid line at 1.5 Mbps in both the up and down directions. These lines are highly reliable and quickly repaired if something goes wrong. That may not sound like much bandwidth, but it can easily work for modest retail or office operations that need credit card verification, email, updates to simple websites, inventory updates, ordering, and casual web browsing.

Note that Point to Point T1 lines offer an interconnection that avoids the public Internet and the congestion and security issues that come with that giant network. You get a private, dedicated, symmetrical link between your locations that's like extending your own network over long distances.

Where can you get a T1 line installed? Do you have a landline phone? Can you get one? Chances are the same location can have T1 line service installed.

Alternatives to T1 Lines
These days, cable broadband is pushing farther and farther out of town to serve industrial parks and residential subdivisions. Fiber optic providers are also expanding their service areas as they extend their cable to more remote cell towers.

Speaking of cellular towers, most areas have at least some cell service and 4G LTE broadband, if not 5G. You can get a specialized cellular modem designed to connect to your computers or WiFI router at a reasonable price. The companies that offer this service have plans with generous usage limits available.

Some rural areas have what are called WISPs or Wireless Internet Service Providers that serve the underserved locations that are too few and far apart to attract wired connections. A WISP is like a very large WIFI hotspot and some use the same frequencies. Most often, you’ll need to install an outside antenna and point it at the WISP tower to get connected. When you do, you’ll get fairly high speed broadband.

Satellite broadband is also widely available just about anywhere with a clear view of the southern sky and some electrical power. This is true broadband service, with plans that can accommodate most business users. It’s a shared service, so your bandwidth will depend on how many others are accessing the same “bird”. There’s also the matter of a half-second delay or latency because the satellite is in geostationary orbit far above the Earth. Many business users think satellite broadband works just fine for their needs, especially with the newer higher power and higher throughput satellites that have become available recently.

So, is a T1 line still the right solution for your network access needs? Or is one of the wireless solutions a better choice? Before you decide, find out just what bandwidth service options and pricing are available for your particular business location.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

When You Need Massive Bandwidth

By: John Shepler

Most businesses do just fine with common bandwidth offerings from telco, cable and fiber service providers. Sometimes, though, your application just won’t squeeze through the pipe. You need more than typical WAN bandwidth. You need massive bandwidth.

Find massive bandwidth for your big data. How Massive Are We Talking?
Over the last few decades, mirroring the growth of the Internet, WAN bandwidth needs have multiplied from a paltry T1 level of 1.5 Mbps up to 10 or 20 Mbps for the smaller businesses, at least 100 Mbps for companies with many employees, to a now commonly expected Gigabit per second.

Those bandwidths levels are easily accommodated by most service providers. Copper twisted pair can bring in 20 Mbps or so. Cable broadband is good for at least 100 Mbps and pushing 1 Gbps in many areas. Fiber optic service easily delivers 1 or 2 Gbps and can readily scale to 10 Gbps. Where you might find yourself limited is in rural or underserved locations where your choice is still T1 lines, LTE or 5G wireless, or synchronous satellite broadband.

Massive bandwidth starts at 10 Gbps and goes up from there. Can you reasonably take advantage of 100 Gbps up and down? OK. How about 400 Gbps, 800 Gbps or even a full Terabit per second? Those are carrier level services, but not out of the realm of possibility for the most data or streaming intensive businesses.

Who On Earth Needs THAT Much Bandwidth?
What were absurd levels of bandwidth are now aspirational and may become common sooner than you think. One big driver is the move of everything digital to the cloud. When your data center was just down the hall, nobody worried about bandwidth. You can string as much fiber as you want above the ceiling tiles. Once you pay for installation, usage is pretty much free.

Not so much anymore. When the connection leaves your building you lose control. You’re not going to string any cable across town, much less across several states. For that you need to hand off your traffic to a carrier or service provider. This third party will then lease you the amount of bandwidth you need, or at least can afford, for a monthly fee. The carrier, not you, takes care of all maintenance and reliability between locations.

Some companies get a surprise when they realize that the 30 Mbps Internet connection that was more than adequate when the data center was on premises is now painfully slow when all the applications are in the cloud. One solution is to install a high speed direct line to the cloud service provider and keep the old Internet connection as-is. That solves the bandwidth problem and avoids business critical apps having to deal with the vagaries of Internet performance.

Another application that just won’t play on standard connectivity is content distribution. If you are sending massive amounts of content consistently, you may need to avoid the standard Internet and move over to a purpose built privately run network called a content delivery network. These are designed to handle continuously high levels of video or data without congestion.

Sometimes you only need massive data for a brief time. Say you have Terabytes of disk drives full to the brim and you want to send that to the cloud for safe keeping or to a customer who needs those design or simulation models on their system. Shoving it through a normal connection will take forever. Is there a better option?

Colocation and Cloud Data Centers
If there is one place that you’ll find massive bandwidth already installed and running, it is in cloud and colo centers. Both are massive facilities with nearly unlimited servers, disk drives and bandwidth connections from multiple carriers. The difference between cloud and colo is that cloud centers provide all of the equipment and service needed. A colo or colocation facility lets you bring in your own equipment and set up your own data center in their racks and cages. It’s like what you would have at home, but in a shared building with plenty of space, backup power, HVAC, security and even round the clock staffing.

Some colos will provide a direct fiber hookup between your company and any others located in the same facility. if you need to connect outside, you won’t have to worry about finding a service provider or paying hefty fees to bring in service from afar. They are already inside and serving other customers. You just get a hookup at whatever bandwidth you need.

More Exotic Massive Bandwidth Options
There really is no limit to how much bandwidth you can utilize these days, other than your budget. If you can afford it, consider these options:

Wavelength Services
Most fibers are now lit with DWDM or dense wavelength division multiplexing. That means multiple lasers feeding the same fiber, but on different frequencies or wavelengths. A wavelength can handle perhaps 10 Gbps and each fiber strand can handle perhaps 100 wavelengths. Combine them all and the total bandwidth is mind boggling.

Many carriers are now leasing entire wavelengths for your use. It’s like a fiber within a fiber. Some will combine multiple wavelengths to create 100 Gbps and higher bandwidths for you, or you can lease the wavelengths and multiplex them yourself.

Dark Fiber
The ultimate in bandwidth and control is had by leasing one or more dark fiber strands. Dark means that the fiber is in the cable but totally unused at present. You add the laser termination and multiplexing equipment at each end and “light” the fiber.

Dark fiber is as close to having your own in-house cabling as you can get outdoors. There is nobody else’s traffic to contend with. You decide how much capacity to press into service. Run out of bandwidth? Just upgrade your terminal equipment. Same fiber, more Gbps. You don’t have total control. The carrier still owns and maintains the fiber physical plant, including cabling and repeaters. The rest is up to you.

Are you feeling unduly restricted when it comes to bandwidth to efficiently run your business and take advantage of new opportunities? If so, look into higher bandwidth fiber optic services now. You may find them more affordable than you think.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

10 Gigabit Ethernet WAN

By: John Shepler

As business becomes more online and companies relocate IT operations to the cloud, the need for WAN bandwidth has steadily increased. Today it is not uncommon for even smaller operations to need 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps of reliable dedicated Internet and inter-office network bandwidth. Medium and large companies, especially those with highly technical products and services or medical imaging, can easily keep Gigabit connections busy. It may well be time to move up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet WAN.

10 Gbps bandwidth for high throughput.Types of High Speed WAN Networks
Very high bandwidth connectivity tends to break down into two categories: Dedicated Internet Access and dedicated private or virtually private lines.

Dedicated Internet Access connects your business location to the Internet through a highly reliable, usually fiber optic, broadband connection. It is called “dedicated” to distinguish it from shared bandwidth services such as cable, DSL, satellite, and cellular wireless services. Dedicated means that all of capacity of the line is dedicated to your needs. There is no competition from other users over this connection.

The Internet, certainly, is a shared resource and your packets are competing with everyone else’s online. There is no way to give yourself priority or to designate certain services such as latency sensitive VoIP phone calls and video conferences as more important than run-of-the-mill file transfers. Usually, though, employing a dedicated access line greatly improves your Internet experience because most of the congestion tends to be in the “last mile” connections to the end users.

Even so, you may want to bypass the Internet for business critical applications such as call centers, core cloud services and the like. You need a direct connection from your location to your service provider, who may or may not be located in the cloud. You may also wish to interconnect your own business locations via a private network of dedicated lines.

Content Delivery Networks
Another type of “private Internet” is the content delivery network. Studios and other video content providers have found that the Internet may not always be able to handle the number of simultaneous high definition streams that users demand. A way to improve performance for the end user short of a direct connection is to deliver the content to the Internet at a point closest to the customer. Entire private networks with multiple geographically diverse server locations are interconnected and then terminated at “Points of Presence” near the users.

Content Delivery Networks need to be very high speed to handle the amount of streaming traffic at a given time. 10 Gbps bandwidth could easily be a minimum, with needs expanding to 100 Gbps connections and more possible.

Content Delivery Networks aren’t just for high volume video steaming. They are also useful to make websites more responsive and easier to handle surges of requests by distributing the content of the website to servers nearer the users. By spreading the load geographically, response time is better and no one server becomes overloaded.

MPLS Networks
A Multi-Protocol Label Switching network is a privately run multi-user network that also helps companies get their most critical operations off the Internet. The advantage of a MPLS network is that it has regional, national or even international points of presence. You only have to supply the line from a particular business location to the nearest network POP. The network operator takes care of the long haul connections between POPs.

As you might guess, the big advantage of MPLS networks versus running your own private network is cost. Unlike the Internet, MPLS performance is guaranteed. The label switching protocol that is employed on the network for traffic control is not hackable using standard Internet Protocol tools and access is limited to paying customers, not the general public. This provides an extra layer of security for your data.

Where Do You Find 10 Gbps Connections?
Until recently, 10 Gbps bandwidth was considered high enough that it was only needed for carrier core networks and the largest business users. The original telco fiber optic standard was OC-192 at 10 Ghz, with 40 Gbps available as OC-768.

A newer standard is Carrier Ethernet that is easily scalable over fiber from 10 Mbps to 100 Gbps, with 10 Gbps readily available today. In some locations, 100 Gbps Ethernet WAN connections are available for the most demanding applications. It’s likely that this service level will be common in years to come with the next advancements being in the Terabit per second range.

If your location or one nearby is lit for fiber optic service, you can likely get 10 Gigabit Ethernet fairly quickly. In some metro areas, 10 Gbps service is also available using point to point line of sight microwave. This makes the service even faster to install and potentially avoids high construction costs of brining in fiber if it isn’t installed already.

Do you have a need for very high bandwidth connections that are also highly reliable and low in latency and packet loss? If so, see what 10 Gigabit Ethernet WAN services are available for your business locations.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.



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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Dedicated Leased Lines for Business

By: John Shepler

Leased lines have been around since the telegraph was invented. Today, they’re a bit faster. Typical leased lines for business range from 1.5 Mbps on the low end to 10 Gbps and even 100 Gbps on the high end. Let’s look at what leased lines are and how they differ from your typical broadband connection.

Find Dedicated Leased LinesLeased From Whom?
You know how it works when you lease a property. You sign a lease document and typically pay monthly for the duration of the lease. For that, you have exclusive use of the office or other building space. It’s similar with leased lines.

The simplest leased line is a pair of twisted copper wires that connect to a demarcation point in your facility to your service provider or through the local incumbent telephone company. For historical reasons, the ILECs, as they are called, own all the copper telco lines. After industry deregulation, other competitive service providers were able to lease these line and then sublease them to you.

The telco may provide the entire line service or just the “last mile” connection to your place. In any case, that’s invisible to you. You’ll get one bill from your service provider that covers the entire line service regardless of how far it stretches.


Dedicated Leased Lines
Leased lines can provide telephone services, Internet access or Wide Area Network (WAN) connections. A single copper pair gives you landline phone service. A multi-pair bundle gives you multiple phone lines. Once you order more than a few lines, it is more cost effective to install a single digital line that supports up to 23 simultaneous calls. That service is called ISDN PRI.

Regardless of the number of lines you need, they are all what is called dedicated lines. That means they are for your use exclusively. Many decades ago, there weren’t enough phone lines to go around and they were shared in an arrangement called a “party line.” The real party often involved snooping on your neighbor’s phone conversations.

Party lines are pretty much relegated to history, although many Internet services have a similar connectivity. You and others in your area share the broadband bandwidth. Typically, you can’t see what your neighbor is doing, but you can feel the effects of the line speeding up and slowing down with the varying traffic. These are shared services versus dedicated.

Dedicated Leased Data Lines
More business activity is now done with computers than telephones. Every business needs some type of digital connection for credit card transactions, Web sites, online order processing, purchasing and inventory, accounting, customer service and so on. You’ll need leased lines for interconnecting your various business locations and for connecting to the Internet

The T1 leased line was popular for decades. It was the first high speed dedicated digital connection available for business and runs at a blazing 1.5 Mbps. That’s pretty slow by today's standards, but it still useful for smaller operations. An advantage of T1 is that it runs on ordinary phone lines and can be installed virtually everywhere.

The next step up traditionally has been to the DS3 or T3 line at 45 Mbps. Above that is SONET fiber optic service at 155 Mbps and above.

These legacy dedicated lines are still in service, but are rapidly being replaced by Carrier Ethernet that better matches the needs of today’s networks. Ethernet over Copper handles the low end from about 1 to 20 Mbps. Ethernet over Fiber is far more capable and is available from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps in most locations and 100 Gbps in some areas.

Dedicated Internet Connections
The Internet itself is a shared resource, which is its great advantage. You can connect with just about everyone, everywhere. It’s your connection to the Internet where you have a choice. You can use a dedicated Internet connection or a shared bandwidth connection.

How to choose? The shared bandwidth connections are what you find in cable broadband, cellular broadband, and satellite broadband services. Consumers and many small businesses opt for this arrangement as it offers the lowest costs.

In addition to sharing the bandwidth on a providers circuit, which causes variations in performance, shared services are also typically asymmetrical. That means the download speed is many times the upload speed. That’s good for watching video streaming or reading web pages, but not so good for sharing or backing up large files, or some business processes in the cloud.

Dedicated lines are usually symmetrical with upload and download speeds identical. They also have rock solid bandwidth that is strictly for your use. If the line is getting congested, then you need to increase your bandwidth because it's all your traffic. A further advantage of many dedicated lines is that they come with a Service Level Agreement that guarantees a level of availability and time to repair, should anything go wrong.

Do you need new WAN bandwidth services or help deciding the best options for your business? Check out the myriad of dedicated and shared bandwidth services available for your particular location.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.



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