VoIP Bandwidth: Quality vs. Quantity

Digital leased lines are no longer the favorites of bandwidth-hungry businesses. As many alternative sources of affordable Internet bandwidth became available, dedicated point-to-point leased lines begun to fall out of favor with many small businesses. Their relatively high cost, by today’s standards, per megabit of bandwidth make them unattractive in comparison to the generous shared bandwidth offers from various telecommunications and cable carriers. That said, it seems like rumors of their rapid demise are being greatly exaggerated. T-1 lines, for example, seem to be entering their 7th life as market for them is getting sudden support by those who had to deal with at least one DSL or Cable outage.

Leased Line Service Level Agreements

Rapid adoption of Voice over IP technology has resulted in many small businesses deploying phone systems without fully understanding the ramifications of having low end Service Level Agreements. They often fail to consider these important factors:

  • Fast and reliable do not always come in one package
  • When your Internet service is down, a money back guarantee of a low cost aDSL or cable connection is a small consolation prize for lost business
  • Service Level Agreement repair commitment time matters

You see, unlike fast shared bandwidth connections offered by telco and cable carriers, digital leased line SLAs typically guarantee 4-hour response time in an event of an outage. The 50-year old technology of a dedicated leased line offers latency and performance guarantees that most shared “business class cable” or DSL connections simply do not have.

T-1 lines still sell

The most commonly used digital leased line in the United States today is a T-1 line. A T-1 line is a digital circuit comprised of 24 channels capable of delivering throughput of 1.54Mbps. These lines are continuing to sell in the United States for about $250 to $450 range depending on a local U.S. market, contrary to what many industry analysts have predicted a few years ago. Their primary buyers are users of the business VoIP phone services. As Hosted PBX adoption movement continues to march on through business community, quality of the Internet connection becomes more important than mere volume of bandwidth available at any given time.

Companies that initially choose not to opt in for a backup ISP connection are often rapidly persuaded by their very first downtime or degraded service quality experience. After evaluating their redundant connection options most choose the reliability of point-to-point T-1 lines.

Augmenting Internet Connectivity with leased lines

Augmenting shared and affordable broadband connection with a leased line may come in more than one configuration: they can be used as a primary connection for mission-critical VoIP traffic or they can also be configured as a last resort backup link.

In the first scenario, leased lines will essentially provide bandwidth for all the traffic. A router can be configured to reroute traffic over another connection in the event a leased line connection does not perform up to its IP SLA specifications.

In the second scenario, all traffic can flow through primary low cost service provider link. Voice traffic would only be routed over a leased line in the event when primary connection fails to meet its IP SLA.

It is important to mention that digital leased lines such as T-1s can be easily bonded to provide aggregate bandwidth though this option usually comes at higher price.

It ain’t Over Until The Fat Lady Sings

Telecommunications infrastructure growth always lags behind the demand for new telecommunications services. Many exciting data transport options such as fiber optics are making their way into SMB market. The cost of their build-out however is mostly shouldered by the medium and large business community with many paying heavy start-up fees for the facilities build-out. Fiber deployment is costly and it is presently limited to densely populated parts of metropolitan areas. Logic and experience suggest that for the next few years leased lines are going to continue to remain in play for many companies.