Bandwidth and the WISP

This was an older article I had on my blog a few years ago.  Much of this applies still.

Bandwidth is a big hurdle most aspiring WISPs face. The reason is if high-speed alternatives were already in place, the need for a WISP would not be as great.  Sure there are business models in which the WISP can compete with other high-speed solutions. However, the bread and butter of a WISP is going into underserved areas.

You have several options for bringing a connection into your area to re-distribute to your customers. I will outline these and then go into further detail

-Leased Lines (Fractional, T-1, T3, etc.)
-Fiber Optic
-Wireless backhaul
-Cable
-DSL

Leased Lines are the most easily accessible across the United States. However, as more and more providers build fiber it is taking over as the preferred method of connectivity.  Fiber is more “future proof” than a T-Carrier circuit such as a T1 or T3.   Most phone companies can provide t1 service to almost anywhere. This is because T1 service uses the existing copper already at 99% of locations. If you have a phone line you can almost always get t1 service.  Once you go beyond T1 things get a little more complicated.  However, T1 has the ability to do bonding if the carrier and telco support it.  You essentially buy multiple T1s and combine them into a single “pipe”.  This requires the provider to support bonding as well as some special configuration on your routers.

Some questions you should ask your provider/telco.

1.Where is my circuit “homed out of”? This means where does the circuit terminate on the facility end.  You do not want this to be too far. If it is too far your reliability will suffer because you have more distance and equipment to go through.  This raises the likelihood of an equipment failure, backhoe digging something up, & utility poles falling.  The longer the distance also means the “loop charge” will most likely increase.   We will get to that in a moment.

2.There are several types of T1s for our purposes.  Some terms to familiarize oneself with are PRI, channelized, transport, and port fee.

3. Ask your provider to spell out what type of t1 this is.  If you are buying the T1 from a backbone provider such as Qwest, Level3, and others they will typically bundle everything into one package. Ask them to break this down if they don’t.  You want to know what the Local loop charge is, what the port fee is, and what the bandwidth costs.  The local loop is typically what the telephone company charges to deliver the circuit from Point A (their equipment) to Point B (you).  If you are going with a 3rd party, and not the local telephone company, the provider typically becomes the central point of contact for the entire circuit.  This can add a level of complexity when issues arise.

The port fee is a charge normally passed on for connecting to the provider’s equipment.  Say you have a 48 port switch sitting in a CO-Location facility.   For each Ethernet cable you plug in from the telephone company they charge a fee either one-time and/or monthly.  This is just the way it is typically.  One of those “Because they can” charges.  The 3rd charge is the cost of the Internet bandwidth.  A T1 can handle 1.5 Megabits of bandwidth so the cost per Megabit is not as big of an issue because you are not buying in bulk.

4.Ask to see the Service Level Agreement (SLA). If you are unfamiliar with the terms have a consultant look this over.

5.Know where your DMARC location is. This is the spot where the provider’s responsibility ends and yours begins.

6.Ask if the provider can verify with the telco how long the next circuit would take to install. You don’t want to go to order a second circuit and find out the local telephone equipment does not have enough capacity.  This has happened to our clients on many occasions.  This can be a quick process or the telco can take months and months to get around to installing the needed equipment.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_point

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-carrier

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