Primus offers small firms another Ethernet option

An affordable high-speed Ethernet service over copper lines being offered by Primus Telecommunication Canada will be a boon for many online media power consumers in the small business sector, according to a telecommunications expert.

On Tuesday, Primus announced the launch of Business Ethernet Xtended (BEX) which is aimed at companies that are exploring cloud services. Up until now, according to A.J. Byers, Primus Canada’s executive vice-president for business services, the only option for these organizations was expensive fibre optic-based symmetrical Ethernet services from large carriers like Bell Canada.

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“Many SMBs ended up being stuck with much slower DSL service because fibre-based Ethernet was just too expensive for them,” said Byers.

He said BEX will come in two packages: a 5 Mbps fully symmetrical unlimited bandwidth package for $400 a month and a 10 Mbps fully symmetrical unlimited bandwidth package for $600 a month. The services will be available in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa initially. Similar services using fibre optic-based Ethernet can run up to $1,000 a month, he said.

Byers said Primus is able to bring down the price because BEX is being delivered over existing infrastructure making it easy and fast to deploy the service. The technology, developed by Zhoine Technologies of Oakland is based on IEEE’s 802.11ah standard, also called Ethernet in the first mile (EFM).

Byer said the system achieves fibre-like speed and has built-in redundancy by bonding multiple copper loops. “If one or more of the loops fail, the other loops take over ensuring better reliability and providing users with identical upload and download speeds,” said Byer.

BEX will be an ideal alternative for many small businesses, according to Roberta Fox, principal of Fox Group Consulting, a Mt. Albert, Ont.-based telecommunications technology consultancy.

“For small businesses that are huge consumers of online media, this is an ideal option,” she said.

With the trend towards using cloud based services, Fox said, many small businesses are turning into broadband power users. Fibre-based Ethernet has been the ideal system for delivery but it prices for this are beyond the budget of many small companies. “The cheaper DSL on the other hand is just not enough anymore to handle services like VoIP, video conferencing and video streaming,” said Fox.

She said the predictable monthly fees will be a good come on for many SMBs also. “If you’re an SMB you don’t like surprises, especially when it comes to bills.”

BEX services of unlimited bandwidth at 5 Mbps at $400/month and 10 Mbps for $600/month “hits the sweet spot for now,” she said.

Another technology analyst said that BEX could mean the end of T1 service.

“This could be the death knell for T1,” said Derek Silva, research analyst for Info Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

“This is the time to ditch T1 and T3. Why pay up to $500 for something that offers less value,” he added.
Silva said T1 and T3 prices typically cost around $400 to $500 per month but only offer 1.5 Mbps and 4.5 Mbps speeds respectively.

Although, he sees many small businesses being attracted to BEX, Silva said, some companies may not be able to switch to it quickly.

Many businesses are likely tied to existing contracts with the current providers.

To who decide to break their contracts might have to pay a hefty penalty. “But who knows for some businesses paying the fine might be worth it,” said Silva.

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

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