Why Your New Wires Should Be Glass Skip the copper completely and start getting the benefits of fiber optic service.
By: John Shepler
The telecommunications industry was build on copper wire. So was the computer networking industry. You’re well versed in the installation and maintenance of metal wire technology. Cat5e or Cat6 cabling gets the job done for most of your networking needs. So, why should you be looking fiber optic exclusively for your next connection?
The WAN vs the LAN
Ethernet over copper works great over short distances. That’s why it is so popular for in-house network wiring. Most users don’t have NICs that run faster than 1000 Mbps and seldom really need even that much bandwidth. Running fiber to the desktop seems like an expensive and unnecessary project.
Where fiber shines in-plant is long stretches between floors or other buildings. It’s also important between some networking equipment that really can benefit from 10 to 100 Gbps or higher bandwidths.
The WAN is another matter. Ethernet was originally designed with short interconnections in mind. The specs for Carrier Ethernet added provisions that let common carriers extend your LAN anywhere in-town, between cities or around the world. There’s even a product called Ethernet over Copper or EoC. It uses multiple pairs of existing twisted pair wiring between your location and the telco office.
That gets Ethernet from in the building to several miles away. But that’s the rub. EoC bandwidth falls off with distance. It is intended to be an upgrade from copper-based T1 lines to increase bandwidth from T1’s 1.5 Mbps on up to 10 or 15 Mbps. In some short run situations, that can be increased to 20, 30, 50Mbps or even higher.
Glass Is The Future
You might be surprised to learn that there is almost a stampeded among businesses from their old copper WAN connections to fiber optic service. Most new installations should really take a look at fiber options first. Only if fiber isn’t really needed because of low bandwidth requirements or unavailability in rural areas, do you want to settle for copper services like T1 or EoC.
The first reason, as you probably suspect, is bandwidth. Business bandwidth needs have multiplied recently. The reason is that more and more business processes are being automated for gains productivity. Software is far more sophisticated than is was a short while ago. Multimedia, especially video content, sucks up bandwidth orders of magnitude faster than text based messaging and reports. More jobs that depend on computers or network connected machines combined with more sophisticated processing means much faster connections are needed for communications.
The “Cloud” is another driver. Behind all the magic, the cloud is really just a big, big data center located too far for a LAN connection. The cloud is sold as a way to transform capital investments into monthly expenses and reduce the cost of local maintenance and support staff. Economy of scale and the ability to scale resources for any given user in near real-time are attractive benefits. The one fly in the ointment is network bandwidth.
Cloud-based computing and telecommunications demands a lot more performance from your wide area connections than simple telephone lines or Internet service used primarily for email and casual web browsing. Productivity, along with voice and video performance, depend on high bandwidth, low latency connections.
Not Yesterday’s Fiber
Fiber optic bandwidth service has a history of being expensive and hard to get. That has changed dramatically in recent years. What started off as a niche technology for the telephone companies to transport huge bundles of phone calls between switching centers has morphed into routine connectivity for private line and Internet service. Buildings are being “lit” at a rapid rate to supply fiber optic bandwidth as a utility, something like electricity and water. In today’s information age, digital connectivity really needs to be considered a utility.
Another big driver is the cell phone industry. In the decades since cellular service was introduced, its use has shifted from simple mobile phone calls to full-blown computer applications running on smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. Carriers can’t build out 4G wireless fast enough to meet the demand. The work on 5G is well underway.
T1 lines were perfect for cell towers handling voice traffic and performed well until 3G start to be replaced by 4G. Even bonded T1 lines can’t keep up with 20 or 30 Mbps, much less higher speeds. That means it has become imperative to get fiber to every cell tower. Fiber is no longer rare. It’s being installed in underground conduit and flying on utility poles everywhere you look.
Fiber That Makes Sense For Your Company
The best deals in fiber optic bandwidth right now are for Ethernet over Fiber (EoF) service rather than the traditional SONET telco standards. EoF has the advantages of being highly competitive among multiple carriers, easy to scale up and down in bandwidth, low in latency, packet loss and jitter and a lot lower priced than you may think.
The most popular Ethernet over Fiber services right now are 10 Mbps as an entry level for smaller businesses, 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet for most established companies, and 1000 Mbps GigE for medium and larger operations and companies with high bandwidth demands, such as video production or computer aided design and manufacturing. School districts also find Gigabit Ethernet attractive to serve their many facilities.
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