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Business Internet Options at 100 Mbps
Multiple options for acquiring high bandwidth Internet access for business locations.

By: John Shepler

DS3 Internet bandwidth at 45 Mbps has been the mainstay of many mid-size businesses. It is readily available and a substantial bandwidth increase over T1 or even bonded T1 lines. Now even DS3 bandwidth isn’t enough to keep up with many simultaneous video users or cloud service applications. It’s time to move on up to 100 Mbps Internet access.

The Fast Ethernet Standard
The 100 Mbps service level is particularly significant because it precisely matches one of the standard Ethernet LAN speeds called “Fast” Ethernet. Most all NICs (Network Interface Cards) built into nearly everything from PCs to routers, switches and printers support 10/100 Mbps Ethernet. That’s the 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps network speeds. Newer NICs expand that to include Gigabit Ethernet or GigE with 10/100/1000 Mbps ports.

Avoid the WAN Speed Bump
The point is that if your LAN is running at 100 Mbps and you connect to the Internet at some lower speed, you are going to experience a slowdown on anything to or from the Internet. At low network activity levels, you may not notice the difference. It’s when there are lots users doing lots of things simultaneously that the congestion occurs. The big choke point, more often than not, is the WAN or wide area network connection to the Internet.

100 Mbps Costs Less Than You Think
Fortunately, 100 Mbps Internet service for businesses is more available and less expensive than ever before. Let’s take a look at the different technical approaches and their advantages or disadvantages.

OC-3 SONET at 155 Mbps
The traditional 100 Mbps telecom service is OC-3, which actually runs at about 155 Mbps. This is a SONET fiber optic service offered by switched circuit telecom companies nationwide. OC-3 is a transport service that can carry anything from thousands of telephone calls to private point to point connections to dedicated Internet access. It’s also often used to deliver lower speed services, such as DS3. You probably don’t think of DS3 as a fiber optic service because your connection is through BNC connectors on small diameter coaxial cables. Still, it’s likely dropped off at your location using an add/drop multiplexer connected to a SONET fiber cable.

OC-3 Advantages
OC-3 has the advantage of being a well established and highly popular digital line service. It comes with an SLA or Service Level Agreement, standard in the telecom industry. Your bandwidth is both dedicated and symmetrical. Dedicated means that you don’t share that 155 Mbps with any other company or individual users. Whatever bandwidth you aren’t using at the moment sits there idling so that you always have the full 155 Mbps at your disposal. Symmetrical means that you have 155 Mbps in both the upload and download directions. Sometimes this is expressed as 155 x 155 Mbps Internet access.

Carrier Ethernet Services
Competing directly with OC-3 bandwidth is Carrier Ethernet. Fast Ethernet at 100 Mbps is an easy interface to your LAN. All you need to do is plug in a standard RJ-45 patch cable and your router has Internet access. There’s no need for fiber optic cabling and special interface cards like you have with OC-3 or a managed OC-3 router installed by the service provider. Like OC-3, 100 Mbps FAST Ethernet is both symmetrical and dedicated. It also comes with an SLA from the provider.

Fast Ethernet over Copper and Fiber
Fast Ethernet service is available over both fiber optic and twisted pair connections. In fairness, the Ethernet over Copper service at this speed is fairly distance limited so you’ll likely find it only in major metropolitan business districts. Slower speeds, say 10 or 20 Mbps, have a much greater range and are more readily available.

Ethernet over Fiber Advantages
Ethernet over Fiber is similar to OC-3 with two important advantages. First, the cost per Mbps is often lower, even much lower than OC-3 where available. Another advantage is that Carrier Ethernet services are highly scalable. The next increment up from OC-3 is OC-12 at 622 Mbps. With Carrier Ethernet, you could go from 100 Mbps on up to 200, 500 or even 1,000 Mbps without an equipment change. The trick is to have a Gigabit Ethernet port installed initially. Then order the bandwidth you need today with the understanding that you can easily upgrade in the future when you need to.

Cable Broadband is the Low Cost Option
A final option that is becoming more available is 100 Mbps Cable business broadband. This is a shared asymmetrical bandwidth service sold without service level agreements. It’s very similar to the Cable broadband you get at home, but with extra features such as static IP addresses and special customer support. Your 100 Mbps is in the download direction only. Upload speeds are on the order of 10 Mbps. This bandwidth is shared by many other users, so it varies all over the place even during business hours. Even so, you can’t beat the pricing which is similar to a T1 line. If all you need is casual Internet access for many employees and have a very limited budget, this could be the answer for you.

Compare Options and Choose
Are you ready to establish Business Internet service at a new location or upgrade from bonded T1 or DS3 to 100 Mbps or higher Internet access? If so, check 100 Mbps Internet pricing and availability for your business location. Complementary consulting is also available to help you sort through the options.

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