Fibernetics joins Ethernet over copper bandwagon

The race to provide an affordable alternative to costly fibre optic connectivity to small and medium size businesses appear to be heating up as yet another Internet service provider (ISP) yesterday unveiled another Ethernet over copper (EoC) offering.

Fibernetics Corp., a Cambridge, Ont.-based ISP and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) will be providing businesses data services with symmetrical circuits, enabling upload and download speeds between 2 to 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) on its new EoC service. The service uses the HN4000 Ethernet switch and HN400 Ethernet demarcation device from North Carolina-based Overture Networks to deliver high-speed, symmetrical enterprise-grade Ethernet services.

According to Chris Lehman, Fibernetics’ vice president of business services, the service will initially cover business in the Kitchener-Waterloo market in south western Ontario, the Downtown Toronto core and Greater Toronto Area. These are areas being served by Bell Canada’s network which is Fibernetics’ current connectivity provider.

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“Future expansion will include the Golden Horseshoe Valley, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton,” Lehman said.

The move will place Fibernetics, a telecommunications company that provides digital PBX phone systems, business DSL service, collocation and discounted long distance phone rates, in direct competition incumbent telecom providers targeting the SMB, according to Chris Lehman, the company’s vice president of business services. “Our competitors in this service offering will be Rogers, Bell and Telus,” he said.

The low cost of EoC services make them increasingly attractive to SMBs with growing bandwidth consumption brought about by greater use of Internet-based services ranging from general Web browsing, to e-mail, to software-as-a-service, Voice over Internet Protocol and Web conferencing.

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A typical 10 Mbps Ethernet service over a fibre optic network, according to Lehman, can cost around $700 per month while EoC can provide similar services for about $395 per month.

However, Fibernetics is among the growing list of small ISPs employing EoC to target SMBs searching for bargains to sate their bandwidth needs. For instance, last October, Radiant Communications Corp. of Vancouver, began offering Ethernet over copper with symmetrical speeds between 3 Mbps to 20 Mbps  at prices of $399 per month to $1,199 per month.

Earlier last month, Primus Telecommunications Canada, rolled out its Business Ethernet Xtended EoC offering aimed at SMBs looking for a cheaper alternative to fibre-based Ethernet. BEX comes in two packages: The 5 Mbps service costs $400 per month and the 10 Mbps service costs $600 per month.

Lehman did not provide specific prices for Fibernetics’ offerings but said the company will offer three basic symmetric packages: 5 Mbps, 10 Mbps, and 20 Mbps.

Symmetric connection : For users, this means upload and download speeds are equal.

Large SMB market

Analysts report that the worldwide business Ethernet market will hit $40.2 billion by 2014, according to Lehman. “We believe the Canadian SMB market is currently underserved in this area,” he said.

For example, Lehman estimates that there are no less than 80,000 SMB operations in Ontario that could use EoC.

Lehman is hopeful SMBs will gravitate towards smaller ISPs because of the better bundles and pricing compared to those offered by larger ISPs.

“For example, larger ISPs tend to charge customers for every feature and service. We don’t charge our Ethernet customers for VoIP so in effect they can cut their phone costs to zero,” he said.

The promises of EoC have been knocking around the market for over 10 years now, according to one technology analyst.

“It’s interesting I had a friend who was starting to do this back in 1999. It’s only 10 years later that we’re starting to see Ethernet over copper take off,” said Mark Tauschek, director of IT research for analyst firm Info-Tech Research Group based in London, Ont.

Advertised speeds no always a reality

He said affordable enterprise-grade Ethernet connectivity may be the biggest pull of EoC, but customers need to be careful when picking a provider. Advertised speeds do not always constitute reality.

“For example, not everyone on a 20 Mbps network may get exactly 20 Mbps all the time. There are many variables,” Tauschek said.

Speed and quality of transmissions can be affected by the number of users on the network at any given time. Weather conditions can also affect network performance. Another big factor is the user’s distance from the Ethernet CO or central office (not actually a physical building but a small box that serves as a connecting point to their Ethernet network).

Tauschek said potential EoC customers should consider the following:

Condition of the network – One reason for the low price of EoC is that the copper lines already exists. Many EoCs run on copper cables being used for high speed DSL. Tauschek says customers should make sure that the network is still reliable. The condition of copper cables affect performance.

Check your distance from the CO – As a rule of thumb, the farther a user is from the CO, the slower the connection speeds. Connections that are within 4 meters of a CO tend to have good reception but outside of 5 meters from the CO is not good, said Tauschek.

Test connectivity speeds – Make sure you test network availability and connectivity speeds. “Don’t rely on specs on the paper. Do an actual test to determine that the network is able to deliver the speeds you are paying for.”

Review service level agreements – Tauschek said EoC customers might not expect “SLAs that are as strict as those given to fibre customers” because fibre is meant to be more robust. However EoC customers need to make sure that items such as maintenance and 24-hour assistance are available and meet their business needs.

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter, read his blogs on Blogs and join the Facebook Page.

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