Saturday, October 20, 2007

Price Shopping for a T1 Line

Price Shopping for a T1 Line

Don’t Buy on Price Alone!

All my past blogs on different types of T1 services, how it’s delivered, and what to look for in the service have come down to this: How to shop for a T1 line. I have said few times that you should do your homework and research before making a decision on which service best suits your needs.

Let me ask you a question: When you buy a car, would you go for the cheaper, older vehicle or the higher-priced, more reliable model?

Depending on your needs and your resources, you’d have to take the time to think it over, dig up information on the products, and weigh your options.

So why can’t you just have one product with everything you want? Well, even though you can, having an all-in-one package does cost money. Just look at all those new and expensive “all-in-one” gadgets like the iPhone. That principle applies everywhere, and T1 providers aren’t any different. Except instead of looking at how many miles are on the car, or if a phone has a built-in MP3 player, you’re looking at the type of T1 line and service you’re getting (eg. Bonded T1, Burstable T1, etc.).

Prices vary, but it’s a sure bet that a T1 Line is going to run anywhere between $400 to well over $1,000 per month; occasionally, you may come upon a deal for a lower price. If you’re going to spend that much for Internet, make sure you look at every factor before you spend your cash. Simply choosing the cheapest may not be wise. Here we go again: “You get what you pay for.” Let’s look at some of the things you should pay attention to.


This is a given. Before you even begin to consider the other factors involved, you need to see whether the company can provide a line to your site. Some providers only offer their services in the major cities like Los Angeles and New York, while others are regional/coastal providers that only offer service within a certain state or district. You must make sure the service is available within your area before moving on to the next items. The most critical factor of price is determined by your distance from the T1 Providers POP (Point of Presence), prices for a T1 line will vary simply because your distance to each T1 Provider is different.


Just because it’s a T1 Service and you receive a dedicated 1.5Mbps line doesn’t mean that’s the end of it. You have to look for other factors, including but not limited to maximum latency and restoration time. You may want to look for providers that commit to a low maximum latency, which can vary from 50 to 100+ ms. Remember to check the providers’ CIRs to guarantee your available bandwidth. Many companies will offer credit if the latency peaks past this ceiling, and you should see what that credit is. Carefully make sure all of the details are written in your SLA, and do request monitoring reports. If you operate a business, restoration time may be the more important factor. The success of a trade or negotiation depends on proper processing, access, and communication so you need to look out for the downtime, which could heavily disrupt that flow. The maximum time needed for T1 Providers to repair their system and your connection should be no more than four hours. Make sure they guarantee such commitment in their SLAs and know what is offered (credit or otherwise) if this isn’t met. Check to see if you have an oversubscribed line, and that the good bandwidth ratio is good if it is. These are necessary things to look into to ensure you get the most reliable service possible.

Service and Support

Is the company’s support line operating 24/7? Will they keep you on hold forever? Can their staff communicate to resolve problems? Will they take a long time? Often times, a business will need to lapse into overtime to complete any given work, and problems can arise. If they did, would the provider’s service number be available? Is there going to be a representative on the other end to guide you through the issue, or do their support technicians only work during regular business hours on weekdays? How about when outages happen? Does that mean you’ll be out of business after hours until the next business day when the support staff comes in the next morning? Again, check that Service Level Agreement. Don’t forget, it’s also negotiable!


Yes, this is important. How long would it take for a technician to install the service? It could require upwards to 45 days before your T1 line is set up, so you may want to consider this. Some companies offer better commitments for provisioning so if time is of the essence, this is something to look for. Some T1 providers will even credit you for every day their installation is late. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to read the company’s policy on service termination. Some will allow you 30 days to try their service and if you’re not satisfied, they will refund your money without further obligation. Then there are the others who will charge you absurd fees, ranging into the thousands of dollars, for early termination, depending on how many years are left in the contract. You may end up purchasing a low quality T1 line and have to pay even more to get rid of it. This is why research is so important. Back to the car analogy: you don’t want to buy a cheap car in which requires more money to fix or tow away later, do you?


Sometimes, the provider will include some additional services with your connection. This generally entails email, and web hosting, but can include other items such as teleconferencing services, like VoIP.

Web mail can provide every employee with emails without the need to install software. Perhaps your company grows and requires more IPs for your employees. You would want to have an option where more IPs can be added later down the line without any extra charge. A DNS (Domain Name System/Service/Server) can also be implemented into your connection for free DNS hosting. This can save you money if you transfer an existing website over to your service provider or need to set up reverse DNS.

Really, there are a lot of things to consider when browsing for the right T1 service provider. Think of it as an employee package – when you sign on for a job, you’re not just looking at the salary (at least, you shouldn’t) but also at the competitive bonuses and options like health plans and 401(k). Similarly, you should think over what any T1 provider has to offer before settling on one.


Do you need Online 24x7 Billing versus calling, the ability to update your information online and purchase upgrades online? Do you need the convenience of updating your credit card information and making payments online? Some companies have poor billing practices and can mangle your bill fast. They will double bill you, or bill you inaccurately, and may terminate your service or suspend you accidentally due to the company’s own billing errors. This is common and there are real some horror stories you would not believe. Some charge extra taxes, surcharges, and fees. These charges can quickly add up and hike up your bill depending on what state you are in; or charge high late fees, thereby negating any savings you may have thought you had.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Different T1s and Services - All T1s Are Not the Same

Different T1s and Services

All T1s Are Not the Same

This blog is a very important one. Today, I am going to go over the different types of T1s and the four reasons why they each may be optimized or slowed down.

First off T1 Internet consists of two parts: The local loop and the port.

Pricing for the local loop is covered under a tariff filed with your state Commerce commission. The T1 circuit is provided by the ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier) such as SBC, Qwest, Ameritech, Verizon and the rest of the Baby Bells and includes the local loop, the copper, and the initial configuration. A clear channel full T1 loop is made to provide 1.544 Mbps full-duplex (1.5 Mbps upload/download at the same time.)

The second component is called the “port.” The port is the pipe to the Internet at your Internet Service Provider. All ports are not the same and may be sold as fractional, burstable, shared, full, protected, tiered, or bonded. The reliability and performance of your Internet connection highly depends on the quality, capability, connectivity, and engineering of your ISP. In other words, if your ISP has a shoddy or oversubscribed port to distribute your Internet, you’ll get a shoddy connection. It’s sort of like getting clean drinking water pumped into a dirty system. Clogs in a bad water distributing system can back water pressure and that clean water can become dirty and undesirable. This is why T1s will show a huge discrepancy amongst different vendors. So remember, your T1 and local loop (the actual physical circuit from you to the ISP provided by the ILEC phone company) may be able to carry 1.5Mbps of data, but your ISP may not have the bandwidth to deliver that much data. This is why you some T1 lines sold as full 1.5Mpbs will only perform at 768kbps. The line is 1.5Mbps but the port or service isn’t.

Let’s look at a breakdown for some of the different lines.

  • Frame Relay T1 is pretty self-explanatory. They are T1s with bandwidth that runs over a frame relay network
  • Bonded T1 is more than one regular T1 line “bonded” or joined together to increase bandwidth speeds. You would estimate an additional 1.5Mbps for each bonded T1, so 2 lines equate to 3MB, 3 lines equals 4.5, and so on.
  • Hybrid T1 is a T1 plugged into a DSLAM and runs over a DSL ATM/Frame Relay network. DSL quality bandwidth, poor “DSL” network quality, lacks a T1 backbone connection, and no prioritizing of your packets or service. It is also known as FRoDSL (Frame Relay over DSL), TeleXtend, or Frame Relay T1.
  • Shared T1 is usually run to an MTU (multi-tenant unit) and split up into separate data networks for customers that choose to use the Internet service. This is generally an excellent and cost effective solution if the T1, routing, and firewalls, are properly designed and managed by a competent ISP.
  • Fractional T1 means you would be sharing a T1 line with one or more subscribers. The fractional T1 still maintain their speeds, so for the average user, it’s still more than enough. Just like cable and DSL, there are different plans you can choose from, such as speeds of 386kbps, 512kbps or 768kbps.
  • Burstable T1 is a T1 that won’t guarantee full speed at any time.
  • Protected T1 is a T1 that’s wired with a redundant dedicated wireless T1 connection, on diverse paths, with intelligent routing for increased reliability. If the wired T1 local loop fails for any reason, the routing will automatically switch to the wireless loop. Internal and external IPs, VPNs, and service is all maintained without interruption.
  • Clear Channel Full T1 is a real full T1 to the backbone or to the reseller that takes you to the backbone.

The above types of T1s make your decision pretty difficult when shopping for T1s, especially when you don’t know about all the different types of services available. Advertising is broad with the way they word things; like “cheap T1 service.” I can tell you that I’m selling cheap cell phone service, but you would immediately be leery of what you’re offered, the phone you get, the network, etc. Treat buying a T1 line the same way you would buy anything else.

Now the above mentioned T1 lines all have their benefits, which affect pricing, so make sure you know what you’re willing to spend and what do you expect for your price. Once you’ve read this blog or researched the different T1 lines available, look into the way the ISPs you’re interested in administers their service.

Let’s say you decided on the Clear Channel T1 because it’s a full T1 line. Done deal right? Wrong. Different service providers may skimp you while you’re unaware. I’ve covered most of these things in this blog, but let’s review and make an overview look at things you should pay attention to.

  • Committed Information Rates (CIR): This is the guaranteed bandwidth you are guaranteed, usually spelled out in the SLA. A 90% CIR means that you will have at least 90% of your bandwidth available to you at all times. How an ISP can screw you is they may be a frame relay provider and offer you DSL-like prices speeds for full T1 prices. As I said in my CIR article: “if you are paying for a 1544K frame relay T1 and your provider offers a 384K CIR, this means your ISP will guarantee only 384K Speed for your 1544K T1. YES this means you will be paying FULL PRICE for essentially what is a 384K T1 Line, that may or may never reach the full 1544K speeds you think you are paying for. Worse, most frame relay providers such as the local phone company will only guarantee 128K, or 64K, or even 0% CIR. You could wind up being stuck in a contract for 2 or 3 years paying close to $400 a month for a 64K dial-up speed T1 line.”
  • Tier or Upstream Provider (affects quality): The unwritten “tier hierarchy” are they are: Tier 1 (A network that peers with every other network to reach the Internet), Tier 2 (A network that peers with some networks, but still purchases IP transit to reach at least some portion of the Internet), and Tier 3 (A network that solely purchases transit from other networks to reach the Internet.) A Tier 1 does not have any alternate transit paths so Internet traffic between any two Tier 1 networks is critically dependent on the peering relationship. If two Tier 1 networks arrive at a deadlock and discontinue peering with each other (usually a decision by one side), single-homed customers of each network will not be able to reach the customers of the other network. This effectively "partitions" the Internet, so that one portion cannot talk to another portion, which has happened several times during the history of the Internet. Those portions of the Internet typically remain partitioned until one side purchases transit (thus losing its "Tier 1" status), or until the collective pain of the outage and/or threat of litigation motivates the two networks to resume voluntary peering. It is important to remark here that Tier-2 (and lower) ISP and their customers are normally unaffected by these partitions because they can have traffic with more than one tier-1 provider. Because the "tier" ranking system is used in marketing and sales, a long-held though generally misguided view among customers is that they should "only purchase from a Tier 1". Because of this, many networks claim to be Tier 1 even though they are not, while honest networks may lose business to those who only wish to purchase from a Tier 1. The frequent misuse of the term has led to a corruption of the meaning, whereby almost every network claims to be a Tier 1 even though it is not. The issue is further complicated by the almost universal use of non-disclosure agreements among Tier 1 networks, which prevent the disclosure of details regarding their settlement-free interconnections.
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA): Every company will have one of these, and most of them have it posted on their websites. An SLA is part of a service contract where the level of service is formally defined. The main purpose of an SLA is to specify the levels of availability, serviceability, performance, operation or other attributes of the services like billing, or even penalties in the case of violation of the SLA. SLAs protect businesses by making access providers pay penalties to the customer for downtime that exceeds a specified total in availability. When agreeing upon the Service Level Agreement, you may want to include additional provisions, such as negotiating a more reliable connection that includes alternate routes for your data, create on-call backup circuits, and attempt to specify more severe penalties for service provider failures.
  • Oversubscription Ratio: Oversubscription is a practice used by ISPs to optimize their resources and maximize profits. Full Clear Channel T1 lines are exclusive to one customer at 1:1, but it’s common to find 4:1 to 20:1 user to line ratios. In my blog on oversubscription, I stressed not to mistake a T1 line with T1 service. You may have a T1 line running into your building, but it may be connected to a DSL network or something. With oversubscription, an ISP can be deceptive and claim you are getting a full T1 at 1.5Mbps which is true because the T1 line circuit capacity itself is 1.5Mbps, but that doesn’t mean the bandwidth or throughput speed coming through it will be. On top of this, even if it’s not frame relay, the T1 could be oversubscribed and you would not get your speed throughput all the time. So if that happens, you are averaging 384k all day because the line is oversubscribed to lots of people. You are essentially paying somewhere around $399 for a “discount T1” at 384K when you could have bought a clear channel T1 for $499. You would be guaranteed no oversubscription and get 4x the speed for $100 more. It's basically paying $399 for a cable modem since there is no consistent speed which amounts to one big rip-off.

If these problems exist to degrade performance of a clear channel T1, can you imagine how much worse it would make your Hybrid T1 or Burstable T1 connection?

All these above can affect your T1 quality and performance and determine whether you are getting a good value for what you are paying or getting ripped off. A reoccurring theme in this blog is to do your research and to read your contracts before making any decisions. I keep stressing that the contract you sign maybe the service you stay with for the next 2-3 years, so why not make it a good 2-3 years for your company.

One last special thing worth mentioning: VPN (Virtual Private Networks): if you plan on setting up a VPN network then making sure you can get the fastest most reliable bandwidth possible with your T1 service. This is because when your VPN can slow your traffic considerably on a network that is already considerably slow at times. Your speeds can take up to a 50% performance hit when using a VPN connection. This can cause a major disruption in your business and severely hurt your productivity and you will need to add bandwidth. But if your provider is already giving you 1.5Mbps, you can’t, and so you’d be stuck.

I hope I’ve helped you guys so far in your search for an Internet service that will benefit your company. For years, T1 retailers have been selling subpar service to unsuspecting customers. Hopefully you found this blog very informative. Please read my next article: price shopping for a T1 line, to supplement the information I gave today.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

This blog has been dedicated to helping guys like you choose the Internet service that’s best for you. I want to shift focus to what’s next after you’ve done the research (like reading my blogs *wink*), and got your checkbook ready.

When you’ve settled with a particular ISP, make sure you read and pay attention to the Service Level Agreement (SLA). Every company will have one of these, and most of them have it posted on their websites. An SLA is part of a service contract where the level of service is formally defined. In our case, it’ll be a contract between the customers and the service providers. The contract states the common understanding about services, priorities, responsibilities, guarantee, etc. The main purpose of an SLA is to specify the levels of availability, serviceability, performance, operation or other attributes of the services like billing, or even penalties in the case of violation of the SLA. You are usually guaranteed 99.99% availability, so request monitoring reports that track downtime. Most providers will make this information available to you upon request. Think about it, if you don’t make a payment on time, you get penalized. Why not make sure you get everything you’re paying for then? A contract goes both ways folks.

Until a few years ago, SLAs were not widely offered by Internet access providers, but they are now standard for high-speed Internet access like T1. DSL and Cable modem Internet are “best effort” services without a guaranteed level of service. To get credited for service outage, I’ve personally had to call, wait an hour to reach an actual human being on the line, and then chew out the unfortunate customer service rep that received my phone call before they even offered to give me credit. Even then, you don’t know when your Internet connection will be up again. Now take a look at getting a high-speed connection, like T1 lines, with a solid SLA with the guarantee of immediate attention when you have problems, and you’ve got a winner among businesses. It’s arguable that SLAs are one of the main reasons T1 lines are the most popular choice for Internet access among businesses.

SLAs protect businesses by making access providers pay penalties to the customer for downtime that exceeds a specified total in availability. With that being said, some SLAs are pretty pitiful. When your service is down, the poor SLAs will only reward you credit for the time your service is down. If you’re running a company and you don’t have the Internet for your day to day work, you’re missing out on a considerable amount of money. Service provider Netifice has a good example of a strong SLA. They will credit you a week if you are down 4 hours and a month if you are down a day. Sure, you’re losing the income from the day your Internet is down, but at least you’re being compensated with something.

When agreeing upon the Service Level Agreement, you may want to include additional provisions, such as negotiating a more reliable connection that includes alternate routes for your data, create on-call backup circuits, and attempt to specify more severe penalties for service provider failures. Like I said, if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, you get bad credit, etc. Make sure this business deal benefits both parties. Try to discuss SLAs up front with the provider since the agreements are negotiable.

To sum things up, you want to make sure your SLA draws out terms of availability, performance, and measurement. You want to know if the service is available and if it’s good enough. Make sure your SLA is one that clearly defines responsibilities, is attainable, meaningful, cost effective, and mutually acceptable.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Frame Relay Over DSL – Hybrid T1

Another Possible Service Option, but Not Quite Worth It

Frame relay over DSL (FRoDSL), also known as Hybrid T1, Covad TeleXtend, Rhythms T1, TDSL, TransEdge T1 (New Edge Networks) and more, is a cost-effective means of obtaining the reliability of T1’s. There is a satisfaction with frame relay, ATM, MPLS-based VPNs and Internet-based IPSec VPNs. WorldCom lists frame relay as its number two source of revenue after long-distance voice, so there is still money to be made through this older technology. A way to extend the life of an existing frame relay infrastructure is to use DSL services to access it. FRoDSL service is considered a great option for companies who currently use frame relay services, but would like to explore lower cost network options.

FRoDSL access use DSL technology to access a service provider’s existing frame relay infrastructure. What happens is that the provider will run a T1 line local loop then plug it into a Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM), a mechanism at a phone company's central location that links many customer DSL connections to a single high-speed ATM line. From there, the line runs over Covad’s ATM network and its frame relay Internet.

This leads to price advantages because of the way the service is delivered. FRoDSL can be extended over greater distances, but at a fraction of T1 speeds. Because of this, FRoDSL will not need the use of repeaters in to relay data, meaning fewer lines are in use.

The service could possibly cost even less because the guaranteed response time is longer, but this doesn't necessarily mean that FRoDSL is any less reliable in terms of the mean-time-between-failure (MTBF). However, since fast response cost money, the guaranteed mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) may be somewhat longer than with a traditional service.

The problem comes when some service providers advertising FRoDSL as “T1 service”. Ultimately, the service is a T1 line that goes through DSL equipment. There is no way you can get speeds comparable to T1 by running the connection through DSL equipment. Frame relay networks also don’t come with a CIR. CIRs, if you recall, guarantees you your level of service with a T1 service. Since you’re essentially getting a DSL connection, they can only guarantee 384k of bandwidth, tops.

The only real T1 line is the line going into the phone company (eg Verizon) central office. Basically, FRoDSL delivers DSL service using a physical T1 line instead of a phone line. Unknowing customers see the T1 infrastructure being installed and figure they’re getting T1. Therefore, paying top dollar for T1, but only getting DSL. Following me guys?

Seriously, FRoDSL is strictly for those who are too far for DSL and can’t afford real T1. Customers should know what it is they’re paying for. A real Clear Channel T1 costs $100-200 more a month for 3X times the speed, which isn’t much more in terms of business costs. If you need reliability and performance, a FRoDSL connection can hurt your business, and should be avoided.

It is not a wise-choice for those who want to get what they pay for. Surfers expecting real T1 performance will be sorely mistaken. Imagine a company stock trading firm that heavily relies on their Internet service. If they were to use FRoDSL without a guarantee of reliability, they can lose an unspeakable amount of money when the system slows down or cuts off. Not only that, they’re stuck in a multi-year contract with the unreliable product.

The only benefit with a T1 line instead of a phone line is that, if the physical line breaks, Verizon (as an example) will fix it within four hours. A regular phone line can take days. Your DSL can be down for days if your phone line is on the fritz.

The main reason FRoDSL is offered is because traditional DSL only goes 20,000 feet. T1 can go on forever so you can get your DSL at longer distances through the T1 line. If service providers advertised that they can deliver DSL service anywhere, that’d be great, but they don’t. They try to market FRoDSL as a real T1 service though a T1 line. The line does not mean the service. The legitimate way of advertising this service is “DSL over T1” or something to that effect.

Another name it’s known by in the industry is TeleXtend (TDSL). TeleXtend is the name of the FRoDSL product Covad offers “comparable” to T1 service. TeleXtend is a T1 loop into the Central Office (CO) where it hits Covad's DSLAM. From that point on it rides the ATM backbone like SDSL or ADSL, then to the internet via frame relay.

The service provider XO sells real T1s for $499. Covad offers their product for $399. You’ll be paying around $400 for 35% CIR, but $500 would offer 100%. Why not just shell out the extra cash.

New Edge, another ISP, sells both real T1 and TeleXtend. They call their FRoDSL “TeleXtend Burstable T1”, or just Burstable T1. New Edge states that their “burstable T1 Internet access service offers high-speed T1 Internet access in tier 2 and 3 markets at 50% below traditional T1 prices. New Edge's burstable T1 service is available in speeds ranging from 384k, to 768K, to 1.1 mbps, to 1.5 mbps with 35% guaranteed CIR and burstable up to 100%.” Though a bit wordy and possibly misleading, they’re at least telling you the truth. Also, just to point out, the guaranteed 35% CIR is about the speed of a normal DSL line.

When purchasing a T1 service, make sure you ask the competing companies whether or not they’re selling Covad’s TeleXtend T1/FRoDSL. Find out if they’re offering you a Clear Channel T1 or Frame over DSL. T1 connections are capable of delivering 1.5Mbps, and while DSL connections are also capable of delivering this speed, they’re not nearly as reliable. Depending on the size of your business and its needs, consider getting an actual T1 connection. A full service T1 will support up to 50 workstations.

A list of Wholesale FRoDSL aka TDSL providers and their resellers:

FRoDSL Wholesaler:

Resold by:

Covad TeleXtend T1

Covad, Megapath, Speakeasy, DSL.Net, Bway

New Edge Networks T1

Transedge, Speakeasy, Earthlink

MCI-Rhythms NetConnections T1

MCI, Verizon, Intermedia, Telocity (DirecTV DSL)