When T1 Lines Make the Most Sense
Think you need gigabit bandwidth for your phone system or small retail operation? A T1 line may be the better choice.
By: John Shepler
In the age of gigabit fiber connections, the venerable T1 line might be thought of as a relic of the past. Not at all. T1 service is alive and well. It might even be exactly what you need right now in the way of bandwidth and affordability.
Why Would Anyone Want a T1 Line?
T1 is the most mature, most deployed and most available of the telecom line services. You might think that Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) would be the leader in that category. It was. POTS is giving way in many organizations to newer premises VoIP and telephony in the cloud. That still leaves what used to be the POTS lines connected. What are they good for? Think: T1
T1 lines are amazingly versatile. They make perfect telephone trunks for channelized T1 phone, ISDN PRI and even high quality VoIP. They are almost certainly available at your location, wherever you may happen to be. Plus, T1 is readily affordable by just about any size business.
The T1 Telephone Line
Did you know that T1 actually started out as a telephone trunking technology? If the telco companies didn’t have a burning desire to consolidate the mass of wiring that interconnected their switching centers, T1 might never have come about. In the beginning, it was one telephone conversation per pair of wires. Then the phone companies found a way to send multiple conversations down the same pair simultaneously using a method called carrier telephony. It works like the radio band. Each conversation had its own assigned carrier frequency separated from the others so they wouldn’t interfere. This is the analog way to get the job done.
The breakthrough that was T1 involved the conceptual change from analog to digital. By digitizing the phone conversations, you could send 24 of them down the same pair of wires and they wouldn’t interfere. What’s more, digital technology got rid of all that noise and crosstalk that analog long distance lines were famous for in the first part of the last century.
A channelized T1 telephone line consists of 24 time division multiplexed segments or channels that are synchronized at the transmitting and receiving end. Each analog phone signal is digitized into 8 bits by 64 Kbps, which preserves the call quality. What grade of wiring do you need to transmit these calls? Ordinary twisted pair telephone cable will do just fine. With signal regenerators every mile or so, a T1 line can be stretched as far as you like.
ISDN PRI Telephone Trunks
T1 telephone lines are used by in-house PBX business phone systems. In recent decades, that technology has been upgraded to something called ISDN PRI or Primary Rate Interface. It’s the same T1 line, but with a slightly different format. ISDN PRI provides 23 separate phone lines plus a control and signaling channel that runs the system. This is the preferred option for call centers because of its fast connection times and high voice quality. Multiple T1 lines can be installed to most PBX systems to match the number of outside lines needed.
T1 for VoIP
VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol is a different method of achieving the same phone service. VoIP was designed to be compatible with computer networks rather than a unique telephone standard. Even so, VoIP trunks, called SIP trunks are needed to get the phone calls to the telephone service provider in the cloud. Unchannelized T1 lines work great for this because they are highly reliable and offer enough bandwidth to carry two dozen or more simultaneous telephone conversations.
T1 Internet Lines
T1 for Internet access, with its paltry 1.5 Mbps bandwidth might be considered laughable in this age of gigabit broadband. It’s not so funny when your business is on a farm or so far out in the wilderness that you are lucky to have a landline phone. Those landline phone wires can also carry T1. That means if you can get phone service, you can get at least T1 broadband where there is no fiber or even cell towers for miles.
Is 1.5 Mbps truly a problem? It likely is if you want to transfer HD video production. Not really, though, if you have a small business and need the line for credit card verification, a connection back to a franchise office, or just email and casual web browsing. You can increase this bandwidth by combining, called bonding, multiple T1 lines together. This will give you anywhere from 3 to 12 Mbps, depending on the number of lines you bond.
How About The Cost?
People who think T1 is expensive remember back a decade or two, when a single T1 line would set you back at least a grand a month. Today, that figure is more like $200 to $300 in most cases. It still depends on how much competing service is in your area and how far you are from the telco office. Is this expensive? Business grade cable broadband is also priced in that range, but with “up to” higher advertised bandwidth… if you happen to be next to where the cable line runs. Even then, cable is shared bandwidth while T1 is dedicated to your particular company.
If your need is for highly reliable PBX telephone lines, point to point private lines, dedicated Internet access or rural broadband applications, T1 might still be the optimum service for your company. Check out T1 and bonded T1 pricing and availability and compare with your alternative service options.
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