Are T1 Lines Still Used for Business? Surprisingly, this mature wireline technology is still in demand for special circumstances.
By: John Shepler
In these days of gigabit fiber optic connections and cable broadband, it may seem quaint to talk about twisted copper pair lines for WAN networking service or Internet access. Yet, the venerable T1 line is still in use today. OK, but why would anyone choose this legacy technology option?
Who Needs a T1 Line?
In an ideal world, we’d be swimming in choices when it comes to networking offerings. Some people actually are, but you’ll find them in the commercial districts of major U.S. cities. Every networking provider wants to serve New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. How about out where the cows moo, well beyond the incorporated limits of podunk towns that dot the countryside? Any takers?
No, not so much. The problem is that we, as a country, haven’t accepted Internet access as a basic utility yet. Time was when electricity was in the same category. It was considered a luxury item. By 1936 it was obvious that standard AC electrical power was of strategic importance to the country and should be distributed everywhere. Thus, the Rural Electrification Act brought power lines into every farm, ranch and rural homestead. Everybody got the same quality of electrical service regardless of where they were located.
Fast forward to today. Broadband Internet access is still widely considered to be an optional service for businesses and home use despite the fact that you can hardly access a government service, take a school course or run any sort of business without getting online. So, you either pony up for whatever service is available in your area, do everything on your phone, or settle for shared options like the public library or free WiFi hotspots.
How T1 Fits In
T1 lines are no screaming broadband service by any stretch of the imagination. But they work and work well, often in places where even wireless service is unavailable.
How’s that possible? it’s by design. The original purpose of the T1 Carrier System was to transport multiple telephone conversations on a single digital line. That’s right. It’s a phone company invention that was intended for phone company office use. What T1 did was replace up to 24 telephone wires strung on poles between offices with a pair of lines that carried all 24 calls at once without them interfering with each other.
As a telephone company standard, T1 was designed to use ordinary twisted pair wiring just like plain old telephone service. it was also designed with repeaters spaced every mile or so to boost the signal so it could reach as far as needed.
When the Internet came along decades later, T1 was already heavily in use for phone service. The local phone companies began to offer it to businesses as an upgrade to the dial-up Internet access of the time. T1 was considered broadband in the ’90’s. Instead of carrying multiple phone calls, a T1 line provides 1.5 Mbps of always-on and dedicated bandwidth. There’s no competition with other users and no busy signals.
T1 Lines Today
Just as you can still get landline telephone, you can still get a T1 line installed for your business in many locations. Some businesses have multiple phone lines coming into a local PBX phone system on a T1 line set up as ISDN PRI. At the same time, they may have another T1 line for Internet access or a T1 private point to point connection between two locations.
A few things have changed over the years. T1 is no longer the broadband of choice for most business users with other options simply because the bandwidth is so limited. Prices have come down dramatically from eye popping levels to something much more reasonable, although that is starting to reverse in areas that are phasing out T1. Indeed, this legacy service still works great but is slowly being replaced by fiber optic lines and microwave fixed wireless.
What you do get for your monthly T1 lease is a rock solid line at 1.5 Mbps in both the up and down directions. These lines are highly reliable and quickly repaired if something goes wrong. That may not sound like much bandwidth, but it can easily work for modest retail or office operations that need credit card verification, email, updates to simple websites, inventory updates, ordering, and casual web browsing.
Note that Point to Point T1 lines offer an interconnection that avoids the public Internet and the congestion and security issues that come with that giant network. You get a private, dedicated, symmetrical link between your locations that's like extending your own network over long distances.
Where can you get a T1 line installed? Do you have a landline phone? Can you get one? Chances are the same location can still have T1 line service installed.
Alternatives to T1 Lines
These days, cable broadband is pushing farther and farther out of town to serve industrial parks and residential subdivisions. Fiber optic providers are also expanding their service areas as they extend their cable to more remote cell towers. Fiber prices have come down dramatically, as service areas have increased.
Speaking of cellular towers, most areas have at least some cell service and 4G LTE broadband, if not 5G. You can get a specialized cellular modem designed to connect to your computers or WiFI router at a reasonable price. The companies that offer this service have plans with generous usage limits available.
Some rural areas have what are called WISPs or Wireless Internet Service Providers that serve the underserved locations that are too few and far apart to attract wired connections. A WISP is like a very large WIFI hotspot and some use the same frequencies. Most often, you’ll need to install an outside antenna and point it at the WISP tower to get connected. When you do, you’ll get fairly high speed broadband.
In business districts, fixed microwave wireless offers bandwidths and latency similar to fiber but without the fiber. Instead, a small dish on your roof points at the service provier's tower to deliver a highly reliable high speed connection. This is similar to WISPs but can deliver dedicated rather than shared bandwidth.
Satellite broadband is also widely available just about anywhere with a clear view of the southern sky and some electrical power. This is true broadband service, with plans that can accommodate most business users. It’s a shared service, so your bandwidth will depend on how many others are accessing the same “bird”. There’s also the matter of a half-second delay or latency because the satellite is in geostationary orbit far above the Earth. Many business users think satellite broadband works just fine for their needs, especially with the newer higher power and higher throughput satellites that have become available recently.
So, is a T1 line still the right solution for your network access needs? Or is one of the fiber or wireless solutions a better choice? Before you decide, find out just what bandwidth service options and pricing are available for your particular business location.
Discover Your Bandwidth Upgrade Options Now
You are likely paying too much money and getting too little bandwidth on your old T1 line contract. Get a competitive quote for upgrade service now, including high bandwidth solutions such as SD-WAN and Managed SDN Software Defined Networking, DOCSIS 3.1 Gigabit Cable Broadband, Carrier Ethernet and MPLS network services from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps, with 100 Gbps available in some areas. Find out in seconds what network services and pricing are available now for your commercial business building anywhere in the U.S. Simply use this handy form...
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