A Comparison of Metro Ethernet and Ethernet Over Copper

Ethernet services have quickly grown in popularity among businesses who need reliable, dedicated bandwidth. Many clients who have been using T1 (including bonded and load balanced T1 services) are looking into Ethernet to provide more bandwidth at a better price point. It makes sense to do so, as most Ethernet services can offer a much larger upgrade path, and on a much faster timeframe as well.

Most companies who are interested in either Metro Ethernet or Ethernet over Copper services commonly ask about the differences between the two services, and which service might be the better fit for them. While both services can offer higher dedicated bandwidth than other types of commercial Internet access, there are a lot of differences between the two that can easily help a business determine which service is the best for them.

Availability: Whether or not either service is available to the customer’s location is usually the first key decision factor we want to look into. Metro Ethernet services have grown quickly, and we haven’t run into a situation where we couldn’t deliver it to a customer. However, with that being said, because Metro Ethernet is fiber based installation timeframes can easily extend out to three months or more depending on available facilities. Businesses outside of major metro areas can count on their timeframes being closer to three or four months, while those in major metro areas can expect a potential one to two month installation timeframe.

Ethernet over Copper tends to be available in more metropolitan areas, and we have run into areas just outside of larger cities where the service was not available. Because Ethernet over Copper uses certain equipment and technology to bond multiple copper lines together, if the central telco office that services the customer location doesn’t have that equipment, then Ethernet over Copper isn’t available. Here in New England, we’ve been able to qualify Ethernet over Copper in cities such as Boston, Worcester, Providence, and New Bedford without a problem – but other locations such as Lowell and Cambridge have been more difficult. It’s always best to check on availability before making any decisions.

Speed and Upgrades: Metro Ethernet will always have more available bandwidth simply due to it being delivered over fiber. A business that has had relatively slow growth as far as bandwidth needs may opt for Ethernet over Copper (and the associated lower costs) but a company that expects their bandwidth needs to steadily increase might be better off with Metro Ethernet. Metro Ethernet also has the ability to be upgraded all the way to whatever speed the provider offers as a maximum, even if the business starts out on the lower end.

Ethernet over Copper, on the other hand, offers speeds that are distance specific, much like DSL. While Ethernet over Copper might be available to a company’s location, they may not qualify for all available speeds which could be problematic if they outgrow their installed bandwidth.

Budget: Costs are a huge factor for any business, and the type of Ethernet service a company chooses is no exception. Ethernet over Copper offers a much lower price point than Metro Ethernet simply due to the differences in delivery method – copper facilities cost much less to install and maintain than fiber. As a result, comparable costs for Ethernet over Copper can be much less than the same speed Metro Ethernet.

Again, though, the company needs to consider whether or not they’ll need more bandwidth down the road, and how long it might be until they need it. They may install a 10M Ethernet over Copper connection, which might be the maximum speed their office or building qualifies for. At that point, they’d need to move to Metro Ethernet, which in the long run may have been the better option to begin with.

There are many other factors to consider when comparing Ethernet over Copper with Metro Ethernet services, but the above three areas can almost always help a company determine which bandwidth solution would be the best fit for them.

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