Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fiber Optic Bandwidth is Closer Than You Think

By: John Shepler

If you’ve had your telecom line contracts for years, maybe decades, you may not be aware of all the connection options that have become available recently. Some have popped up only in the last few years. Don’t continue to assume that something like T1 lines are all that are available without taking another look. You may be surprised at what you find.

You Need More Bandwidth
Fiber optic bandwidth has been talked about for years at the wave of the future. When you look at the type of applications that are popular with both consumers and businesses, it becomes obvious quickly that nothing else will accommodate the bandwidths that are needed.

You’ve seen it coming. Static web pages have given way to embedded video clips. SD video has been supplanted by HD Video. Now that clamor is for 4K and, soon, 8K video streams.

How about software? Software used to come on tape reels, floppy disks and CD ROMs. Now software is downloaded. The old “packages” are on their way out, if not gone. They’re being replaced by apps that are acquired over the Internet. That takes a lot more than DSL or T1 bandwidth.

Downloadable apps may have a short lifespan, too. There is a mad dash for the “cloud” for both applications and storage. On-site data centers are emptying out. Massive cloud data centers are popping up as fast as they can be built. When you access everything through the cloud rather than over the LAN, your wide area network bandwidth requirements shoot up by orders of magnitude.

Why It’s Got to Be Fiber
The need for increasing levels of bandwidth have not been lost on service providers. In fact, any carrier that is still married to circuit switched architectures and copper connectivity is just marking time until it is no longer needed.

Ethernet over Copper has extended the life of the installed twisted pair copper plant by offering speeds of 10 Mbps to at least 50 Mbps and sometimes higher. DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 are doing the same for coaxial cable. Premises connectivity is likely the last bastion of copper. It only needs to stretch to the curb, where it connects to… fiber.

What about wireless? It looks like the world is now standardizing on 4G LTE and looking forward to 5G, as everything we do at the desk also needs to be done while mobile. Even so, capacity limitations dictated by the amount of room in the electromagnetic spectrum will keep wireless primarily as a mobile connection. Perhaps meshed WiFi and pico cells will again multiply the capacity of wireless… but it’s never going to be fiber.

An Avalanche of Fiber Now
The beauty of fiber is that it offers unlimited bandwidth as far as we can tell. Each strand might only support 10 Gbps with todays lasers, but DWDM creates dozens or more of those 10 Gbps channels on a single fiber strand. Why install a single hair-thin fiber when you can bundle 100 or more in a cable about the size of the familiar twisted pair bundles?

Of course multiple strand cables are the only way to go. For awhile it looked like way too much capacity had been installed during at the tech boom of the 90’s. Now those dark fiber strands are being lit up en-masse and more capacity is being installed nationwide.

Google has it right. The future… the near future… is fiber and Gigabit bandwidth is something we won’t be salivating over for long. Soon it will be 10 Gbps and then 100 Gbps. There is no end in sight.

It’s not just Google in selected cities or Verizon’s FiOS. Every incumbent telecom company and all the new competitive service providers are in a race to get to fiber as their standard connectivity for both home and business.

Goodbye SONET, Hello Ethernet
The incumbent telcos and the long line providers built their fiber networks with the SONET protocol, as it was the logical upgrade from TDM copper such as T1 and E1. All the new networks are being built around Carrier Ethernet and the older ones are converting rapidly.

Sometimes the most sensible thing to do is install Ethernet over SONET as an upgrade. When starting from scratch, native Ethernet is the protocol of choice. It’s unlikely we’ll return to a circuit switched world. It’s packet switching as far forward as we can see.

The beauty of Ethernet is that it is directly compatible with the local networks in every home and business, and all of the equipment that connects to them. Carrier Ethernet is designed to be highly scalable, with many more increments in bandwidth than were offered by SONET and fractional SONET services. You can pretty much pick the bandwidth you want, although standard LAN speeds of 10, 100 and 1000 Mbps are popular, with 10 Gbps more in demand every day.

Moreover, Ethernet services are fast and easy to scale. You can generally call your provider and get bandwidth upgrades immediately or within a few days. As long as the installed port for your WAN service can handle it, you can keep upgrading as needed with no change in premises equipment.

How to FInd the Fiber Services Quickly
You can try looking the old fashioned way, by looking in the phone directory for telecom carriers in your area. Or just run an online search. You’ll find some of them for sure, but might miss out on others that are new or not widely publicized.

It makes more sense to use a search engine that is dedicated to finding fiber optic bandwidth and nothing else. That’s the GeoQoute (™) system. How difficult is it to use? Trivially easy, in fact. You simply start by entering some basic contact information and the type of service you want. In a few minutes, the automated system will give you a list of options with budgetary pricing. If you like what you see, a complementary discussion with a product specialist can help you narrow down the choices and find out about limited time special offers that might be an even better deal.

Sound good? Do a fast search for fiber optic network services now and see what you may have been missing for years.

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

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