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Comparing Business Ethernet to T1
Scalable Ethernet services are now giving traditional T1 lines a run for their money and bandwidth.

By: John Shepler

Small and medium size businesses have been big users of T1 lines in the last few decades. Now there is a new service that is challenging the price and performance of the venerable T1 line. That service is Business Ethernet.

What is Business Ethernet?
Business Ethernet, also known as Metro Ethernet, Ethernet over Copper and Ethernet over Fiber, offers scalable higher bandwidths, lower cost per Mbps, and increasing availability. It’s called “Business Ethernet” to emphasize that Ethernet isn’t just for LANs and carriers anymore. It’s being rapidly deployed into the SMB arena.

What’s so great about Ethernet? It’s now the universal standard for computer networking. Nearly every desktop PC, router, switch, and cabling infrastructure is designed to support Ethernet. Manufacturing economies of scale ensure that it will be tough, indeed, for another other technology to bee the price/performance of Ethernet.

The Move to Packet Switched Networks
The proliferation of Ethernet has also caused telecom carriers to rethink their public networks. T1 lines, DS3 bandwidth and OCx services are all based on circuit switched standards established to transport telephone calls. Ethernet is a packet switched technology that can be carried on circuit switched networks. With most networks now packet switched, it only makes sense to make the telecom networks packet switched also.

Packet switching end-to-end offers some interesting possibilities. If the LAN, MAN and WAN all support Ethernet, then you can establish level 2 switching to interconnect multiple business locations. Each location has its own LAN and they are tied together with MAN and WAN Ethernet services. You are extending your company network to encompass the connections between locations as well.

The Scalability & Cost Advantages of Ethernet
Business Ethernet is a scalable service. That means you can order a range of bandwidths for your connection, also called a port. As long as you stay within the capacity of the port, you can often get bandwidths in small increments including 1 Mbps. That way, you can order just the amount of bandwidth you need today, but can quickly upgrade with a phone call to your provider when business increases and you need more. It’s a great strategy to optimize costs and still get the performance you need right now.

How about the cost comparison with T1? It varies somewhat with location and the amount of competition for your business, but it’s not unusual to get 3 Mbps Ethernet for what you pay now to get a 1.5 Mbps T1 line. A popular service is 10 Mbps Ethernet. That costs about what you were paying for T1 a contract or two ago.

One service of particular note is Ethernet over Copper. This technology uses special terminal equipment installed by the service provider to bond multiple copper pair for your telecom connection. This gives bandwidths up to 50 Mbps over already installed copper wiring so you don’t have to pay for a new fiber installation. T1 lines can also be bonded, but the bandwidth tops out at 10 or 12 Mbps.

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