Ethernet has become the standard for LAN technology, preferred because of its simplicity, low equipment cost, high speed and multivendor interoperability. However, with its network operation traditionally confined to a single building or devices within a close geographic proximity, many predicted its demise in the early 1990s. At maximum stretch, Ethernet devices could only be a few hundred meters apart, making it impractical to connect geographically-dispersed locations. Electrical signals would propagate along a cable very quickly, but weakened the further they travelled, and were prone to electrical interference from neighbouring devices.
However, recent dramatic developments in Ethernet transport technology have alleviated these difficulties, allowing users to experience the benefits of Ethernet across longer distances. Using Ethernet in WANs is a relatively new development, and is rapidly changing the way global networks are configured.
Advances in Ethernet technology have resulted in an increase in connection speeds, greater performance and a decrease in operational costs. Network service providers have now realised that, as a long distance transport technology, Ethernet actually outperforms traditional Frame Relay and private line ATM networks. That's important because service providers must improve network speed, performance and reliability over longer distances in order to meet the growing needs of applications such as multimedia-based corporate communications, videoconferencing and VoIP.
Perhaps the main benefit from deploying Global Ethernet is that special equipment and port adaptors are not required. That means companies can standardise, reducing the cost of rolling out communications devices such as phones, DSL modems, cable modems, and set-top boxes. Fully-capable routers with high speed interfaces (T1/E1/DS3/OCN) and the ability to interface with any type of WAN connection are often much more expensive than the Layer 3 Ethernet switches and interfaces used in deploying a Global Ethernet service.
Another distinct advantage of an Ethernet-based access network is that it can be easily connected to the customer network, which is typically also Ethernet. The equipment involved in rolling out a global Ethernet network is easier to source, manage and replace, naturally leading to a reduction in the total cost of ownership.
Furthermore, with the installation of circuit termination equipment in a customer's premises, network service providers are able to deploy all of the benefits of Ethernet, regardless of the existing access speed or circuit type. The benefits of this approach include: secure convergence of multiple VLANs on the same circuit; native Ethernet VLANs bridged across serial connections; and flexible design of one-to-one, one-to-many or fully-meshed networks.