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200 Mbps EoC Challenges Fiber
Ethernet over Copper technology can now deliver fiber-like bandwidth of 100 Mbps and even higher.

By: John Shepler

Ethernet over Copper (EoC) technology is wildly popular as a way to get mid-band Ethernet connections without the time delay and expense of having to bring in fiber optic service. Sometimes seen as a stopgap approach, EoC now challenges fiber services on a permanent basis.

EoC as a T1 Replacement
One of Ethernet over Copper’starget markets is businesses using T1 lines or new ventures looking at T1 services. T1 is a standardized, reliable and affordable telecom service that delivers 1.5 Mbps over one or two pair of twisted copper pair telco wiring. T1 is a telephone trunking technology that has been pressed into service to also carry data packets.

More Bandwidth For The Money
EoC takes on T1 by providing more bandwidth for the same money using the same twisted pair copper wires. These are leased line telco connections that are already installed in nearly all businesses and being used for telephone and perhaps Internet service.

EoC Is Newer Technology
EoC is a newer technology than T1 and more aligned with the computer networking industry than the public telephonesystem. More efficient modulation techniques and fierce competition from competitive service providers are what make Ethernet over Copper a real bargain for dedicated Internet service, MPLS network access and point to point private lines.

Ethernet over Copper Bandwidths
What bandwidths are available from EoC? Entry level is typically 2 to 3 Mbps, priced at similar levels to 1.5 Mbps T1 lines. It’s fairly easy to upgrade that service level to 5, 10, 15 or 20 Mbps. T1 line bonding provides a bandwidth growth path for T1 users, but gets expensive and unworkable above 10 or 12 Mbps. Companies that need higher line speeds move to DS3 and SONET services, such as OC-3 fiber optic. Once you have fiber optic service installed, upgrading bandwidth is fairly cut and dry. It’s just a matter of being able to afford the much higher lease prices.

The High Cost of Fiber
Where things get dicey is when fiber optic service isn’t available anywhere in the area or is a mile or two away and it’s up to you to pay the construction costs to bring in the fiber. That can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars and maybe higher. Faced with this dilemma, many companies choke on the quote and either decide to do without or move to a building that is already lit for fiber.

EoC So Fast It Replaces Fiber
Ethernet over Copper is now providing an upgrade path without the need for fiber construction. Just a year or so ago, the upper end of EoC was considered to be 50 Mbps. Above that, you go to fiber. Intellifiber, a subsidiary of the competitive service provider PAETEC, recently launched 100 Mbps Ethernet over Copper service and is reported by Carrier Ethernet News to have installed 200 Mbps EoC service for one customer.

OC-3 Is the Next Victim of EoC
A bandwidth of 200 Mbps exceeds the OC-3 SONET fiber optic bandwidth of 156 Mbps and is plenty formany medium size and even larger businesses. Companies moving to the cloud, streaming video, transmitting high resolution medical image records, engaged in computer aided design work and the like need such high bandwidths. Some will need to press on to Gigabit Ethernet and 10 GigE to meet their needs. That’s definitely fiber territory... for now.

Uses Multiple Twisted Copper Pair
EoC works its magic by bonding as many as 8 to 16 copper pair to get the higher bandwidths. Unlike T1, the Achilles heel of higher line bandwidth is distance limitations.You need to be within a mile or so of the central office to realize 100 Mbps or higher EoC. Lower speeds can be engineered farther away. Even so, many potential users are close enough for EoC and have the copper bundles running into their buildings. It’s fiber that still isn’t installed.

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