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Copper Ethernet Demands Local Loops
All that copper in the ground is valuable for business bandwidth versus the high cost to get fiber.

By: John Shepler

There’s been a decline in utilization of local loops as of late. Most of it is the result of residential users dropping their analog phone service in favor of going totally wireless or a combination of wireless and VoIP. This has given some phone companies the idea that local loops should just be decommissioned totally. There have even been feelers to the FCC on this idea. Sadly, the idea of decommissioning copper is coming at exactly the same time as technology advances are breathing new life into the local loop.

Universal Fiber Is Not Today
Someday all telecom connections to the building may be fiber. That day is not today by any means. Something like a mere 12% of all business locations are currently lit for fiber optic service. Some could be but the demand isn’t there. Others might be except for the construction costs. Others still are nowhere near a fiber point of presence and won’t be in the near future.

What is a Local Loop?
That leaves copper as the most popular way to bring telecom services into a facility. The standardized connection is the local loop. This is a pair of small diameter plastic insulated copper wires that are twisted together to reduce noise and crosstalk pickup. One end of the copper pair terminates at a network interface device mounted on or inside the building to be served. The other end runs to the nearest central office location up to a few miles away.

Two Pair and More
Residential local loops or subscriber lines typically have two copper pair or four wires in a small diameter cable. Business locations can have dozens of individual pairs in a binder cable. Each pair can carry one analog telephone line. Two pair can provide 24 digital phone lines or a broadband data line. A dry pair has no signal at all. It is an unpowered circuit between two points. This local loop is owned by the incumbent local phone company but can be leased by competitive carriers.

EoC Revives The Local Loop
What competitive carriers are doing is deploying a new bandwidth technology on the local loops that they lease. It’s called Ethernet over Copper for good reason. The last mile connection is two or more local loops connected to EoC equipment at both ends of the line. One electronics box is mounted at the central office. The other is installed in your building.

Benefits of Ethernet over Copper
What does Ethernet over Copper offer? It’s a way to deliver higher bandwidth than you can generally get with T1 lines, another user of the local loop. T1 lines are provisioned on one or two copper pair and deliver 1.5 Mbpsof bandwidth. You need an interface box called a CSU/DSU to convert that to an Ethernet protocol that will connect to your LAN. Often the CSU/DSU is a circuit card that plugs into an edge router rather than a separate box. With Ethernet over Copper, that circuit interface is unnecessary. The signal from your service provider is already in Ethernet protocol.

How Much Bandwidth?
EoC services are available from 2 Mbps on up to 200 Mbps. The 2 and 3 Mbps levels are good replacements for T1 lines as they offer more bandwidth at about the same price. Many companies are now upgrading to 10 or 20 Mbps as more sophisticated online applications are bandwidth hungry. Also, more content from the Internet is now video which benefits from higher bandwidth connections.

Higher Speed Options
The higher Ethernet over Copper bandwidths can replace DS3 services (45 Mbps) and even fiber optic lines at the OC-3 (155 Mbps) level. In addition to a considerable savings on the monthly lease cost, these bandwidths can help a company avoid fiber optic construction costs and still get the line speed they require. By the time fractional or full Gigabit bandwidth is needed, your building may be lit for fiber optic services.

For Business Only
EoC is strictly a business location service asof now. Cable broadband serves the residential market that hasn’t kept a local loop in service for DSL. Businesses, however, have more demand for copperwireline circuits than ever before. Plunging costs on T1 lines and EoC services are causing even small convenience stores and other retailers to rethink satellite links in favor of higher bandwidth, highly reliable and reasonably priced copper-based connections.

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