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Don Watkins

Cheap (okay, inexpensive) T1

By Don Watkins

If you're in an office (or a really well off home user) you might want to consider T1 as the next update to your wide area network. First we'll look at what T1 is and how to find the best price. Believe me, it's a jungle out there. I had companies all excited about their "great price" which was $300 more a month than others. More on that later.

What exactly is T1, why would you want it, how much will it cost and what will it do for you? All great questions, let's take a look.

T1, or Trunk level 1, isn't something new; it was first rolled out by AT&T back in 1957 as the first step in creating a digital network out of the telephone analog system. T1 has a maximum signaling speed of 1.544 Mbps and it can be split into a total of 24 channels or delivered unchanneled.

T1 can be obtained in fractional units; 386kbps, 512kbps or 768kbps but given the cost of installation you'll probably be better off just going for the full T1, it won't cost much more.

Back to channels. Each channel can be used to run both voice or data. For instance you could have four channels dedicated to four different voice numbers with the remainder allocated to data. Virtually any permutation is available. The voice channels simply plug into the phone company's jacks into the channel bank where the voice service is located (the install guy will know what to do) and that's it. Many carriers will be able to offer long distance at a very reasonable price as well.

At your end you won't need much if you're already running a network; a router and firewall (many time these days they're integrated) that connects right to your hub and probably a few changes to your networking configuration in terms of gateway and IP addresses.

Unlike cable and DSL because a T1 line is amplified as needed (depending on your distance to the central office) it can be put in almost anywhere, you don't need to be located within a certain area.

If you do have access to "business class" cable service why T1 instead of cable? Most likely it will be in the "service level agreement" (SLA). Even with "business" cable most likely they won't guarantee a specific level of service (outages, speed, etc.) or offer something that's not suitable for your needs, for instance repair within four hours. Just think if your mail server, internet and web server are out of service for four hours. Ouch, that could be a lot of lost business or employee down time.

Different providers will offer different service levels. Make sure you include this in your deliberations.

How to find the best price for T1 without spending hours on Google? When I was looking I ran into Shop for T1.com which allowed me to enter some info an get a quote from multiple providers and I mean multiple providers. There were eight providers available with prices all over the board so I was able to narrow down my selection quickly. After that it was pretty automatic, a few forms, setting up appointments for install and that was it (other than paying the bill!).

I won't go into price, I'll let Shop for T1 do that for you as charges are all over the place depending on where you're located, but either way be sure and use a shopping service when you're looking for the best price on T1, most likely you'll find that the price is even less than what the vendor will charge you if you go to them directly.

However the price will be more than DSL or any other non-business alternative but you'll want to spend some time with pencil and paper and come up with a net cost. What do I mean by net cost? In my case I was able to get a "dynamic" T1 install; a full D1 with four dynamic voice circuits which, when utilized for voice, remove those circuits from the data channel. When not in use their capacity went back into the data pool.

Two of the dynamic voice circuits replaced existing voice lines, one replaced an existing FAX line and I got a spare just in case. The new "voice on demand" lines plugged right into the existing wiring and with number portability it was transparent.

By eliminating three existing voice lines and avoiding paying for a fourth, getting a generous amount of long distance calling included, eliminating my old hosting service and connectivity I was able to cut the increase in what I would pay for T1 by 70%. While the bottom line looked scary at first after I figured in what I'd otherwise save it turned out to be a great deal.

A year later with only two very minor outages and with the performance I was looking for I'd do it again in a minute.

 

 
 
 

 

 
     
   
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