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Ethernet Services, Fast Ethernet, Metro Ethernet, Business Ethernet

What Is Ethernet Bandwidth?

Using Ethernet is becoming more and more cost effective for businesses that need more bandwidth than a T1 can provide. Although it is not as widely available as a T1 or bonded T1, in area where it is available, it provides a very cost effective option for customers, where the pricing between 10 MB Ethernet and bonded T1 starts to blur around the 4xT1 neighborhood.

All Ethernet is not created equally and Ethernet is not required to run on fiber, depending on the amount of bandwidth desired. This is a common misconception. Some carriers offer "Ethernet" but what that means from some carriers is that it is simply DSL-like or even cable in nature, and you do NOT have dedicated access but like DSL and cable, the circuit is shared amongst 50-100 or more of neighboring businesses and even residences. It is for this reason that you want to go with a reliable carrier and a reliable telecom broker who can lead you through this increasingly complex maze of possible "gotchas".

Ethernet is a logical standard for communication between the physical and data link layers of the OSI model. Basically, it combines bits to frames in preparation for assembly into packets for the network layer. The standard for Ethernet communications is delineated and defined by IEEE 802.3 and subsequent protocols for wired networks.

The current maximum bandwidth of Ethernet is 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), however, IEEE 802.3ba has set standards for 40GbE and 100GbE, which is currently in test and should become available to the public sometime in early- to mid-2010. This is a significant argument for using wired Ethernet for in-house business applications. The protocol is very active and there is no reason to believe it is going to become obsolete in the foreseeable future.

Multimode fiber (MMF) 62.5 micrometer (um) fiber optical cable is going to be insufficient for the highest speeds – those above 10um – and a 12 fiber ribbon (OM3) is currently under development to address this issue. While 40/100GbE may be down the road a bit, the 10GbE is strong and uses relatively cheap cable. If a new installation is being planned and wired and multi-line Ethernet fiber ribbon is being considered for installation, it would be prudent to ensure the ribbon is certified and guaranteed to operate effectively at the anticipated speeds. To date, there is a lack of testing due to the Ethernet equipment not being ready yet.

Is Ethernet Bandwidth Cost Effective?

For most common business solutions outside the main network interface, 1GbE is generally sufficient and 10GbE for high-traffic applications. The fiber Ethernet option is superior to bonded T1 – multiple pair T1 lines. The new Ethernet speeds will rival DS3 speeds – without the expense and virtually certain obsolesce of copper twisted pair wiring. Fiber optics are also lighter and easier to install as a general rule.

Ethernet connections to the Telco over dry pair copper lines using appropriate termination hardware at the Telco Central Office (CO) and the premises. Speeds are dependent on proximity – actual wire length, not line of sight – and copper-to-copper connections throughout the route. The distance to the Point of Presence (POP) will determine if the actual realized speed is 5, 10, 20, or 45 Mbps.

Telecommunications is a complex subject and with technology growing at nearly exponential rates, it is prudent to engage a knowledgeable and experienced consultant to determine the exact requirements and anticipated future needs of the company.