Wednesday, September 03, 2008

GigE Gives OC48 a Run For The Money

Telecommunications infrastructure is rapidly changing from circuit switched time division multiplexing technology to packet switched IP technology. Standard telecom circuits for voice and data services now find their territory being encroached upon by upstart MPLS and Metro Ethernet connections. But this is more about entry level services such as T1 lines, right? There is no real competition for Gigabit bandwidth SONET fiber optic lines... or is there?

Gigabit Ethernet is coming on the scene faster than you might expect. GigE, as it's known for short, is a well established LAN standard. It's used in data centers, workstations and many newer business PCs. Gigabit to the desktop is well on its way. But what about wide area networking?

WAN (Wide Area Network) buildout and pricing lags well behind LAN standards. That can be accounted for by the fact that most corporate traffic is internal. Companies traditionally haven't needed near the bandwidth for communication with the outside world as they require to support dozens, hundreds or thousands of employees accessing company applications and data.

Another reason for lagging WAN bandwidth levels is that metro and long haul networks have traditionally been the domain of the telephone companies. Their digital technology is based on transporting telephone calls on 64 Kbps channels called DS0s. A T1 line, DS3 connection and all the way up through fiber optic SONET services as high as OC-768 with a data rate of 40 Gbps are all collections of DS0 channels. The big trunks were designed to transport thousands, even hundreds of thousands of simultaneous telephone calls. Their pricing has traditionally reflected that.

IP-based WAN networks never had that channelized telephone trunking legacy. They reflect the new reality that nearly all communications is becoming packet rather than channel based. A packet can represent voice, video or data. The higher the bandwidth required, the more packets traverse the network. A 64 Kbps data stream is still good for one or a few digitized telephone calls. But today's WAN network needs are measured in Mbps and Gbps, not Kbps. It's becoming a real-time audio, video and interactive data world. Both WAN capacity and pricing need to meet that current need.

This is where competitive carriers are moving in to fill the gaping demand for lower cost metro and long haul bandwidth. Computer aided engineering, medical imaging, automated manufacturing, e-commerce, and remote data centers have demands that are orders of magnitude above the previous business practices of FAX document transmission and overnight mail delivery of data tapes. Businesses need and will install higher bandwidth line services... if only they can get an affordable price.

Gigabit Ethernet, GigE, has advanced to a level of maturity where it is challenging the long-entrenched OC-48 SONET service for metro and long haul WAN connections. Costs are not merely competitive, they are often dramatically lower for Ethernet versus higher bandwidth TDM-based services. Some of this may be attributed to new carriers coming on the scene with aggressive pricing to establish themselves in the business bandwidth marketplace. But there is also an efficiency improvement based on technology.

Gigabit Ethernet is exactly what it sounds like. It's 1,000 Mbps of bandwidth. OC-48 can also give you 1,000 Mbps by using protocol conversion to allow TDM technology to transport packets instead of channels. But OC-48 has an inherent bandwidth of 2.488 Gbps. When you pull in an OC-48 line to deliver Gigabit bandwidth, there's a lot of excess capacity going to waste. OC-24 would be a better choice at 1.244 Gbps. But OC-24 is considered an oddball optical carrier level and isn't always available.

Is your business hamstrung by too small a WAN pipe for the applications you need to be competitive? If you haven't checked recently, you may be surprised at how much the cost per Mbps has declined for 10, 100 and even 1000 Mbps WAN connections. Take a minute now to find out how little you'll pay for the service you really need.

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

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