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Choosing T1, DS3, EoC and Fiber Bandwidth
When it’s time to upgrade bandwidth, here’s how to sort out the many available options.

By: John Shepler

If you need more than a Gigabit of bandwidth, you’re down to a choice of fiber or fiber. But what about less demanding network needs? Say you need from 1 Mbps on up to 100 Mbps. Now you have a number of flavors of twisted pair copper and coaxial cable connectivity, as well as fiber optics. What’s the best way to go these days?

It’s Important and It Isn’t
What you choose for a bandwidth connection can seem like a critical decision. Relax. The fact is that as long as you choose dedicated Internet access or point to point private lines, you’ll be getting similar performance. What’s different will be the availability of each service and the price.

A Word About Dedicated vs Shared
I should point out that there is a tremendous difference between dedicated and shared bandwidth. You get a lot more bandwidth when you choose something like business cable broadband. But, that bandwidth has different upload and download speeds and you share what’s available with other users. That means your slice of the pie will vary all the time. Even so, when you get up to 10 or 100 times the download bandwidth at the same price, it’s a pretty enticing deal. If it works for your needs, that can be the smart way to go.

T1 vs EoC
T1 lines have traditionally been the entry point for business bandwidth. You get a rock solid 1.5 Mbps x 1.5 Mbps circuit with low latency, jitter and packet loss. Availability is excellent. Even prices have come down dramatically in recent years. The only weakness is that bandwidth level. While 1.5 Mbps used to be pretty decent broadband, it hardly qualifies anymore.

You can bond T1 lines together to create higher connection bandwidths. Two lines give you twice the bandwidth or 3 Mbps. Add more and you can ramp this up to 10 or 12 Mbps. That’s still plenty for many businesses, but it gets a bit pricey as you go up in bandwidth.

A competing technology is EoC or Ethernet over Copper. This service uses the same multiple twisted pair copper, but bandwidths are usually higher. EoC starts about 3 Mbps and easily goes up to 10 or 15 Mbps. Maximum bandwidth capability goes down with distance from the originating office, but close-in you can get 25, 30 or 50 Mbps. Occasionally even higher.

How about the cost comparison between T1 and EoC. EoC is cheaper for the same quality of service. If available, you can often cut you bandwidth costs in half for symmetrical, dedicated private lines or Internet access. The higher the bandwidth, the better the deal.

T1 or EoC vs DS3
The traditional upgrade path from T1 used to be DS3. It’s a jump from 1.5 Mbps (or 12 Mbps bonded) up to 45 Mbps. In some cases you can get fractional DS3 that creates intermediate bandwidth options.

The thing about DS3 is that it really isn’t a completely copper solution. The connection to your equipment is a pair of coax cables. But, most of the distance to the carrier’s office is handled by SONET fiber, typically OC3. That means there needs to be some fiber in the area for DS3 to be available.

Today the upgrade path is from T1 to Ethernet over Copper. DS3 is a possibility, but you need to compare costs to see what is a better deal at your particular location. Any of these technologies will give you reliable high performing connections.

Ethernet over Fiber
Fiber optic service used to mean SONET, the legacy telecom standard. SONET is still available with service levels of OC-3, OC-12 and OC-48. It’s a rock solid service, but doesn’t upgrade quickly or easily and can be pricey by today’s standards.

The new gold standard is Ethernet over Fiber. Most new network services are designed around Ethernet for several reasons.

First, it’s a very easy interface to your local network. Ethernet connects to Ethernet seamlessly. It also enables additional services, such as layer 2 switched LAN to LAN connections.

Second, Carrier Ethernet has been designed to be easily scalable. Instead of a few fixed service levels, you can order just about any bandwidth increment. If you change your mind or have a greater need later, you can get a bandwidth increase with a simple phone call to you provider. In some cases, you can do it yourself via a Web browser.

Third is cost. Ethernet over Fiber is the core of many new service providers with regional, national and international footprints. Even the big legacy carriers are making the move from switched circuit to packet switching technology (Ethernet) because that’s the future. As a result, there are a lot more opportunities for Fiber Ethernet service options than traditional fiber services and greater competition. You’ll generally pay dramatically less for service at the 10, 100 and 1000 Mbps level. Even 10 Gbps is becoming readily available at affordable prices for more demanding needs.

Choosing Your Bandwidth Options
Like every other business decision, the best option is to gather as much information and quotes from as many service providers as possible. You can do this with one simple inquiry to get competitive bandwidth service quotes and expert recommendations.

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