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Why Ethernet Access is a Critical Part of Enterprise Wireline Telecom

  • CCMI
  • 6/2014
  • Hank Levine & Jack Deal

In today’s Brave New World of enterprise telecom, MPLS has supplanted private lines, frame relay and ATM as the backbone of data networks. At the same time, SIP trunking is well on its way to replacing TDM-based PRI’s for voice. By the end of this decade – at the latest – MPLS and SIP will be the near-universal model for enterprise wireline communications. 

Sounds like a great plan. And it is. 

The fly in the ointment – or, if you prefer, the bug in the code – is dedicated access, the pipe your voice and data traffic rides from your corporate locations to the nearest network node. In other words, the last (and first) mile. Access is not trivial – traditionally it accounts for 30-40% of your total network costs and for decades it has been the thinnest connection (hence the bottleneck) of corporate networks. And since it’s the last bastion of the ILEC’s near-monopoly when CLEC alternatives aren’t available, it’s notable for high prices and lousy terms.

Until recently, the workhorse of dedicated access was DS-1 [1.5 mbps] special access or, for really large locations and data centers, its big brother, DS-3 [45 mbps]. Separate lines were procured for voice and data (a PRI is a DS-1 divided into 23 voice channels). 

But today, DS-1’s don’t cut it anymore, DS-3’s are expensive, and carriers are making noises about discontinuing both. Voice is now an “app” that increases the load on special access lines dedicated to data traffic. And even without voice, who wants 1.5 mbps speeds when FIOS or Comcast gives you 10-30X that at home? Lastly, bandwidth demand is soaring as employees use more and more cloud based apps. 

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