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First Mile Ethernet Access
The first mile or last mile connection is often what determines your bandwidth and range of services available

By: John Shepler

Both legacy telco and competitive fiber optic networks worldwide are in the midst of a major upgrade from switched circuit to packet switched networks. With IP core networks proliferating, it seems natural that Ethernet WAN services have become more available and lower in cost. But, what is it you are using to connect to Ethernet transport services and private IP-based cloud networks? It’s not T1, DS3 or SONET telco-based connections, is it?

In many cases, that’s exactly what businesses are using. There’s nothing wrong with any of these switched-circuit time division multiplexing technologies. They’re highly reliable and much less costly than they were even a few years ago. But, you should know that there are advantages to using Ethernet itself in the first mile.

First Mile or Last Mile?
The first mile, also called the last mile, connection is often the most costly and hardest to come by. This is the physical wire, optical fiber, or wireless circuit that connects your building to your service provider’s closest point of presence. T1 lines have been highly popular because they need only two pair of ordinary twisted copper phone line to bring in the service. Even small business locations have a couple extra pair of copper in the bundle that connects them to the telco central office.

Did you know that Ethernet is also available using the same twisted pair copper that supplies your T1 service? A big reason to switch to Ethernet is that higher bandwidth may be available to you over copper. Common speeds are 3 Mbps and 10 Mbps Ethernet. Higher speeds of 20 Mbps up to 50 Mbps may also be available, depending on how close you are to the carrier POP (point of presence). The lower speeds up to 10 Mbps are readily available, but above 10 Mbps you need to be within a mile or so of the POP. Higher speeds degrade rapidly as distance increases.

Moving Up to Fiber Optic Ethernet
The next step up is fiber optic Ethernet. EoF or Ethernet over Fiber offers speeds from 10 Mbps right on up to 10 Gbps. That’s a huge range and it’s scalable. You simply make sure that you install a port that is capable of handling the highest speed you anticipate needing. Then, you order service over that port that is only what you need right now. Say you have a 100 Mbps port installed. You might start out with 20 or 40 Mbps and then upgrade when business needs justify the increase. Since the port is capable of 100 Mbps, you can often get up to this level of bandwidth by simply placing a phone call to your service provider.

In addition to bandwidth, Ethernet offers simplified interfaces that are similar to what you are using on your LAN already. Most often this is a common RJ-45 jack provided by the carrier. Just plug in and go. But best of all, Ethernet tends to be the most cost effective competitive bandwidth service you can buy. You can choose to get more bandwidth for the money you are spending now or run at the same bandwidth and get a cost savings.

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