Comparing Business Ethernet And DS3 Bandwidth
When businesses are looking for the right bandwidth solution for critical business network applications, the popular options today are DS3 bandwidth and Business Class Ethernet. Either are a good choice as long as you understand what each can do for you. Do your homework, compare pros and cons as they relate to your network requirements, and choose wisely.
Outside of the cost difference between DS3 bandwidth and Business Ethernet (Ethernet tends to be cheaper or at least very competitive), the speed varies a wide range from 45 mbps to 100 mbps to 1000 mbps (FastE to GigE). If you shop around you'll likely discover that DS3 line costs have dropped dramatically in today's market. Still, Ethernet pricing is attractive where it is available. Where it is not, build out costs may be prohibitive. In terms of reliability, they're similar because they're both dedicated bandwidth circuits.
The traditional high bandwidth network connection is a DS3 line, delivering up to 45 Mbps of connectivity. Today, most DS3 services are provisioned over fiber optic cables with a copper handoff at the demarcation point. In some cases, you can get DS3 brought in over coaxial copper or even wireless transport. There's plenty of flexibility available currently to deliver DS3 capacity with little restriction from the transport mechanism.
For application, a DS3 circuit works as a reliable backbone for large networks with substantial voice/data/video traffic needs. For example, organizations that need high bandwidth such as headquarters phone lines (PBX and/or VoIP), company Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems, high traffic websites, Hospital medical imaging and diagnostic systems, data/disaster recovery and backup networks, video conferencing facilities, multi-media or virtual design centers, high security networks, and ISP backbones. Where DS3 is not quite enough capacity, opting for the "next up" OC3 circuit (fiber optic bandwidth transmission) is an option.
An alternative to DS3 is Carrier Ethernet, especially Metro Ethernet in larger cities. Ethernet services offer standardized speeds of 10, 100 and 1000 Mbps to match the common LAN (Local Area Network) speeds. But most Ethernet providers also offer other increments in 1, 5 or 10 Mbps steps. A 50 Mbps Ethernet service provides similar bandwidth to DS3.
So how do you choose one service over another?
If you need the channelization of traditional TDM services for telephony or other applications, DS3 already meets this standard. It is easily multiplexed and de-multiplexed to interface with T1 lines on the low end to SONET fiber optic services (e.g. OCx) on the high end. On the other hand, if your network interests are extending your LAN or an already converged voice and data network, Metro or Carrier Ethernet is the logical connection. Make sure to understand your existing network configuration to enable a smart decision here. Otherwise, you risk potential frustration and an "apples and oranges" scenario.
If you have any concern for interface issues don't worry. You can opt for a Managed Router Service which will take care of any such issues. Most networking applications are now packet based and more easily interfaced to Ethernet WAN services than legacy Telecom standards. But since the interface circuitry is generally an off the shelf router module, it may not matter all that much. If you go with a managed router, the service provider will take care of providing the proper customer premises equipment and monitoring the line and interfaces for proper operation. No matter whether you choose DS3 or Ethernet. In some cases, you may also get the vendor to provide the router at no cost... whether on site or remote (managed). Be sure to ask if this accommodation may be extended to you. It won't in every case, but it's worth asking.
Don't overlook availability of Fractional DS3 and Burstable DS3 either. Fractional DS3 services are available that offer less than 45 Mbps for a lower monthly lease cost. You can get fractional DS3 bandwidth at the speeds where T1 bonding becomes impractical (around 10 or 12 Mbps bandwidth depending on your intended application usage). You can also go the other direction with Burstable DS3. Which allows you to start at usually 45 mbps and increase your bandwidth as your needs grow. A Burstable DS3 is the ideal solution for businesses who seek ultra-fast connectivity for their Internet needs.....and don't require full OC3 load capacity just yet but may in the future.
On the Ethernet side, with scalable Ethernet you can specify nearly any bandwidth from 1 Mbps up to 10 Gbps and often upgrade to higher levels with just a phone call to your service provider. The flexibility of bandwidth scaling offered with Ethernet is a major advantage to this transport option.
Be advised that an Ethernet connection is not available in every location. Normally this limitation is restricted to where the network providers have fiber already laid out in the neighborhood. You'll most often find major cities or urban areas to be "lit" while more rural locales are not. Where Business Ethernet isn't available, a DS3 or OC3 circuit is the best option for a company that needs more bandwidth to grow.
If you're fortunate and you're in an area where Ethernet connections are available, whether they're FastE or GigE, count your blessings and go for it. The cost can vary from depending on the bandwidth needed and local loop (distance from the tie in to the providers Point-Of-Presence or POP). The FastE cost and GigE cost are usually less than per megabit than a DS3 or OC3... or at the minimum very competitive.
So which bandwidth option offers the best value? The fact is that DS3 and Ethernet bandwidths compare favorably. Which you choose for your particular application will most often be determined by which service offers the best pricing for your particular business location. Therein lies the foundation for your decision.... all else being equal. DS3 bandwidth is perfect for most applications. However, if a company is price sensitive and the solution is available Business Ethernet would be the recommended alternative.
By Michael Lemm
Michael is the owner of FreedomFire Communications.... and also authors Broadband Nation where you're always welcome to drop in and catch up on the latest BroadBand news, tips, insights, and ramblings for the masses.
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