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3 Mbps Ethernet vs Bonded T1 Battle
The advantages and limitations of two major competing wireline technologies.

By: John Shepler

There’s a battle that’s been brewing for a couple of years and is now raging in full force in many markets. That’s the contest between bonded T1 lines and Ethernet over Copper. Regardless of who the technical winner is, the business winner could be you.

What's The Fight All About?
Let’s take a step back and review just what this battle is about and who the players are. Ultimately, it’s all about bandwidth and cost. Bandwidth needs to go up and cost needs to come down. Why? Because businesses are becoming more and more dependent on connectivity. They are especially tied to the Internet, but also need to connect privately to remote data centers and clouds. Telephone connectivity is moving from a completely separate service to something tied-in with data connections and/or the Internet.

The Two Wireline Contenders
The two technology contenders in fierce competition are T1 lines, the reigning champ, and Ethernet over Copper (EoC), the up and coming challenger. In some ways, these services are more alike than different. Both are wireline services. In fact, both use the exact same twisted pair copper telco wiring that comes in multi-pair cables from the incumbent telephone company. That’s your business telephone wiring. What you may not realize is that there are extra wires in that cable that can be used for private data lines or Internet connections. What else you may not realize is that there are many competitive carriers who would like to provide you with those digital services.

Competing For Your Copper Wires
How is this possible if the cable bundle runs directly to the telephone company’s central office? By law, the local or incumbent phone company owns the copper telephone wires that run underground or overhead. However, other companies can lease the unused pairs. In fact, other companies can even install their own termination equipment within the phone company’s office. That lets competitive carriers offer services that compete with phone company offerings or even services that the phone companies don’t offer.

The Genesis of T1
T1 line service was actually developed by the telephone industry to transport multiple telephone calls on one line. Later on, it was offered to business as a way to connect to the Internet or for private point to point data lines between two locations. T1 line technology has matured to where it is well entrenched with small, medium and larger companies. T1 can be provisioned just about anywhere you can get landline telephone service. It runs at 1.5 Mbps in both the upload and download directions. T1 is often offered with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that guarantees availability.

Bonding To Expand T1 Bandwidth
The 1.5 Mbps bandwidth of a T1 line was once its main selling point. Today, 1.5 Mbps is more of an entry level service, especially for Internet access. Fortunately, there’s a solution for that. Just add more T1 lines. The trick is to combine their bandwidth through a process known as bonding. You can bond 2 to 8 T1 lines this way to get anywhere from 3 to 12 Mbps over ordinary copper telco wire. The most popular level right now is dual-bonded T1 for 3 Mbps. Many smaller companies don’t need any more bandwidth than that. The price for bonded service is the cost of one T1 lines times the number of lines you bond. There is no economy of scale.

Ethernet over Copper Alternative
The direct competitor to dual-bonded T1 is Ethernet over Copper or EoC. It also uses multiple copper pair, but a different modulation scheme than T1 to transport the signal down the line. The tradeoff is bandwidth vs distance. EoC is highly sensitive to the length of the telco line. Close to the Central Office (CO), you can easily get 10, 20, 30 or up to 50 Mbps. A few miles away you get can’t get any service at all. Forget EoC out in the countryside. This is a city service.

Why Pick Copper Ethernet Instead of T1
One big reason that companies choose EoC instead of T1 is that they can get higher bandwidth without the expense of bringing in fiber optic services. The construction costs can be prohibitive if your building isn’t already “lit” with fiber. The other big reason to go with Ethernet over Copper is cost. A 3 Mbps EoC service will cost about the same as 1.5 Mbps T1. Another popular option is to move up to 10 Mbps for about the same price as dual or triple bonded T1, depending on location.

Which Service Will Win the “Battle of the Bandwidths?”
For now, they’re pretty well matched, with T1 having the advantages of near universal availability and being the incumbent service. EoC is coming on strong, as companies find they need higher levels of bandwidth and like the price advantage of Ethernet over Copper.

How about your situation? Which bandwidth service is right for your company? Why not get competitive prices quotes for both T1 and EoC to check out your options. Chances are, you can get better deals now than you could even a year ago.

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