Originally developed in 1776 by Xerox at their Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Ethernet is a well-established technology for distributing data around local networks. The term “ether” is used because Ethernet standards can operate over a variety of paths, including coaxial cable, Cat 5, fiber optics, and radio waves.
Ethernet Internet connectivity over copper, commonly known as Business Ethernet, applies Ethernet standards to connect a single site to the Internet via the same twisted pair copper facilities used for DSL, T1, and DS3 services. A device is placed on the customer premises to aggregate copper pairs in order to transmit and receive information. For example, five copper pairs may be aggregated to deliver a highly reliable full-duplex 10 Mbps connection. Back on the carrier network, another device interfaces with the device on the customer premises and routes traffic securely to the Internet. Voice traffic, if present, is routed separately.
Ethernet is a highly flexible protocol that utilizes packet-switching, meaning that data is transmitted in small blocks, called packets, and bandwidth can be dynamically allocated to maximize efficiency. This is significantly different from the more rigid standard of time-division multiplexing used by T-carrier services (T1, T3, etc.), in which data is transmitted in a fixed order and pre-allocated to sub-channels of a circuit. Because packet switching moves data across networks more efficiently, Business Ethernet is significantly less expensive to deliver.
The core advantages of Business Ethernet are affordability, ease of install, reliability, and scalability. These advantages are detailed below in a comparison between T-carrier and Business Ethernet services.
Like Business Ethernet, T1 and DS3 solutions deliver business-class full-duplex connectivity with high reliability. A T1 can deliver up to 1.544 Mbps, while a T3 offers up to 44.736 Mbps. Fractional options are also available, and T1s can be bonded together for circuits of 3.0 Mbps or more.
T1, Bonded T1 and DSL have only one significant advantage over Business Ethernet—a larger availability footprint. Although available nationwide, Ethernet over Copper (EoC) has distance limitations from the central office (CO). And, while Ethernet over DS1 (EoDS1) provides the same speeds regardless of distance from CO, the service is not as readily available in all major markets, but is quickly expanding.
Where it is available, Business Ethernet is unquestionably a better choice for symmetrical business-class bandwidth up to 10 Gbps:
Good Shepherd Services, a large non-profit organization serving the youth of New York City, is an excellent example of the advantages of Business Ethernet over T-carrier services.
With over 900 employees and 51 locations, Good Shepherd requires bandwidth for Internet access, email, youth programs, VPN between sites, and access to New York's automated child welfare information system. The organization began saving tens of thousands of dollars annually when they cancelled T3 connections at both of their data centers and restructed their network around a single 10x10 Mbps Business Ethernet connection at their Manhattan data center. Their installation process with the T3s took almost a year and required major infrastructure development. The Business Ethernet was installed in about a month with minimal expense. They also enjoy exceptional reliability and effortless management.