WAN Connectivity – Bridging the Gap


Traditionally if a customer wanted high bandwidth connectivity with a good SLA, QoS capability and flexibility to access an MPLS IPVPN or the internet, then there was only one option – leased line. This is still the go to option for most enterprises especially as the costs of leased lines have dropped dramatically over the last few years. In addition, the need for bandwidth is increasing as organisations consume more and more bandwidth through applications such as voice, video and IOT. It is already commonplace for customers to request 1Gb/s speeds which are only available on wired and wireless leased lines whilst 100Mb/s bearers are almost a thing of the past.

However, what if your bandwidth requirements are relatively high but your organisation can’t afford or justify the costs of leased lines? What if your business can’t wait a potential 60-90 working days for a service to be delivered, such as retailers with strict store opening deadlines?

Well, you could go with ADSL as it has low lead times, but typically the bandwidth won’t be sufficient for more demanding services and applications such as guest access and voice and video. You could look at EFM which has lower lead times and provided synchronous bandwidth which is great for applications like voice and video. However, bandwidth speeds are typically limited to up to 20Mb/s and it is an all copper service so is typically more unreliable than fibre based connectivity. In comparison to broadband services it is also expensive too. Fibre broadband (FTTC) is another alternative. This could be an option as it typically provides higher bandwidth at low cost and offers a more reliable service (than ADSL 2+), but it has its limitations. Contention, latency, and no true SLA or end-to-end QoS makes this an unsuitable option for many organisations that require strict SLA’s and true quality of service for their applications.

If only there was a product that somehow bridged the gap between ADSL/FTTC and leased lines. Well there is, and it’s been around for a little while, but many people don’t know about it.

There are a few different names for this product depending on the chosen carrier but the most common are GEA (Generic Ethernet Access) or EoFTTC (Ethernet over Fibre to the Cabinet) and it is supported by a few of the main carriers within the UK. Fundamentally it looks the same as FTTC, copper from the premise to the green street cab and then fibre from the cab to the exchange. However, this is where the similarities end. From the exchange, it traverses the carrier Ethernet backbone rather than the broadband infrastructure. The diagram below should hopefully illustrate this a little better.

Ethernet over Fibre to the cabinet

network diagram-1.jpg

But what does this mean for the end user?

Well EoFTTC provides the following features and benefits:

  • Speed – Symmetrical speeds up to 20Mb/s and Downstream speeds up to 76Mb/s.
  • Uncontended – 100% bandwidth available to you.
  • Reliability – Predominantly fibre infrastructure (vs all copper services such as ADSL and EFM).
  • Low cost vs leased line – bridges the gap between ADSL/FTTC and leased lines.
  • SLA – business grade with 7-hour fix options.
  • Low latency.
  • QoS – end-to-end Ethernet provides true quality of service options.
  • Low lead times – estimated 30 working days.

Having spoken to several potential customers of differing sizes over the last 12 months it is apparent that this connectivity option is not widely known or understood, but for some it offers the perfect mix of cost and performance for their business and applications. 

For many enterprises where cost is less of a driver, high bandwidth leased lines will still be the way to go as their primary circuit as they offer much higher bandwidth, great performance and reliability and are backed by strong SLA’s, in these cases EoFTTC becomes a great option for a backup service. For those with different requirements such as low cost and bandwidths up to 80Mb/s, EoFTTC or GEA could be perfect. It is also a good underlying connectivity option for an SD-WAN deployment as it can offer large cost savings vs leased lines and also provide the path for less critical traffic such as internet access.

Will this type of service replace leased lines? Unlikely. But do they bridge the gap between broadband services and leased lines? Absolutely. With the adoption of technology such as SD-WAN and the growth of IOT, consumption of this type of service is surely only going to increase.

As a CSP that has over 20 years’ experience providing bespoke and end to end solutions, EoFTTC (and GEA) gives us another option to ensure our resilient cloud ready networks meet the needs of our customers.

Coming up in the next blog, ANS’ Head of WAN services, Ian Wharton will explore how this type of connectivity could be the ideal option for use in a hybrid and SDWAN design.



Posted by Tom Grace