Get Out of the Dark Ages: A New Type of Business Internet Connection

ethernet over t1

You look at your outdated laptop with disgust as you try to work, only to find it takes FOREVER to do anything. It ran fine five years ago when it was the latest-greatest. Now, it boots up slowly and runs even slower with all the RAM-hungry software you want to use on it today.

That’s the problem with staying in the dark ages. Maybe you are saving money by not updating your laptop to a newer generation model, but you sacrifice performance. And in the end it could cost you money because of slowness, freezes, crashes and unexpected failure.

Your business Internet connection can be viewed similarly to that older laptop. If you choose old tech over new tech when it comes to your connectivity, you are missing out on all of the benefits.

When you are considering broadband connections for your business, the following question may pop up, “I have been quoted by my local phone company for a T1 line and a Metro Ethernet provider for Ethernet services — which do I choose? Aren’t they the same?”

Really, the only thing about the two technologies that appears similar is that they carry higher speeds than standard Internet connections.

Yet, from the technology standpoint there is a clear winner here. It’s the new technology. To see why the new technology is a winner over the other, you simply need to understand what they are.

Let me explain first by talking about the products themselves. Then I will get into advantages and disadvantages, before giving my conclusion.

What is a T1?

A T1 circuit is a dedicated (which in this sense means “not shared”) point-to-point line from your business’ network to the telephone company’s central office and then in some cases to the Internet provider, which could also be your phone company. A T1 line can also be used to link shared data between offices as well.

The T1 will require specialized equipment at each location, that you must have the phone company install. This line can carry data at a rate of approximately 1.5 Mbps. You can bond T1’s together to increase the bandwidth to roughly 1.5Mbps for each additional line.

Mbps stands for “megabits per second.” Notice we are not talking megabytes. Megabits refers to the transfer rate of data, or stated differently, the download speed. Megabytes refers to a file size. A megabit is one-eighth the size of a megabyte. What does that mean? It means, to download a one megabyte file in one second, you’d need 8 megabits of download speed (or 8 Mbps). This handy Google megabits to megabytes converter demonstrates how that works.

What is Ethernet?

Some time ago, T1 lines were the common method for receiving a high speed Internet connection. That started back in the day when slow dialup Internet connections were widespread. A T1 line was perceived as a faster and better choice — and sometimes the only high-speed choice available to businesses in a service area.

However, Internet demands are growing so rapidly that T1s aren’t able to handle the bandwidth capacity as easily as they used to. That’s why many businesses are turning to Internet using Ethernet.

On average, Ethernet service is delivered to a customer with a minimum speed of 10 Mbps (which, to compare, is equal to more than six T1s bonded together). Ethernet can go all the way up to 1 Gbps and beyond, depending on the service provider. One gigabit is equal to 1024 megabits — a tremendous speed advantage! So, as you can see, Ethernet can be orders of magnitude faster than a T1 line.

Even better, Ethernet’s high level of bandwidth comes at a relatively low cost since Ethernet cables and equipment are inexpensive. Well-defined industry standards make installation collectively simple and economical throughout the industry. In fact, the cost structure is generally lower than that of a T1 and in a managed Ethernet scenario you would not have the costs of equipment to buy and maintain.

How Do I Choose Between T1 and Ethernet?

When comparing T1 lines and Ethernet, the important things to note are:

Bandwidth Availability

Bonding T1’s will be limited by the equipment you own. Bonding up to 7 T1’s would get you to approximately 12 Mbps. However, you can easily exceed those speeds with a single Ethernet connection.

Service Level Agreements (Also Known as SLA’s)

Both types of services offer high up-time. So on this point there’s not much difference.


Link bonding is a traditional method used for bonding T1’s together, but this technology requires all links to be up at all times to work. One circuit failure (physical or otherwise) will take down the entire data link. Ethernet uses a newer technology called loop bonding. If a single loop fails the other circuits will continue behaving as normal providing you with continued (even if slightly skewed) bandwidth during repair. You may not even notice the failure of a loop.

Expansion Capability

Adding T1’s requires additional equipment. That could make expanding your capacity a costly scenario.

Adding T1’s not only costs you extra equipment (T1 cards that typically your equipment vendor sells you and installs) but it also costs you time. The phone company has to physically install another line to your office, which may take months.

With Ethernet, not only do you not need any more equipment, your service provider can bump up your capacity remotely, with a few keystrokes.

Quality of Service

Generally both offer high quality of service, depending on carrier of course. So deciding to move to Ethernet will not impact the clarity of your VOIP call or your video transmission, for instance. In fact, more available bandwidth with Ethernet may mean more calls can take place without interrupting other Internet-based services.


Overall, Ethernet offers much better cost efficiency and in many cases you can get Ethernet in a 20Mbps connection for the same cost as a single T1.


The availability of T1 and Ethernet services depend on the physical distance between each location and the central office of the provider you are choosing and also the physical delivery method. If the technology is delivered over copper wire, the distance for availability is considerably shorter than if fiber is the available conduit.

T1 technology has been around and in use for a very long time and the telco providers have central offices very well spread out because of phone services, so T1 technology is more readily available.

Ethernet is still young and thus availability is smaller. However, as competition mounts and more fiber is being lit across the U.S., Ethernet will become every bit as available. Be sure to thoroughly check out the providers in your location and what they offer.

As you can see there are some great reasons to consider the new technology — Ethernet — as and when it becomes available in your area.

Ethernet Cable Photo via Shutterstock

Craig Sutton Craig Sutton is the owner of Sutton Brand Management. Using his background in tech, including 5 years managing the servers and networking team for a major regional Internet provider and also owner of an IT and Web software development firm, he harnesses the power of digital and traditional marketing to help small to medium sized businesses excel.