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Comcast: 'Ethernet Everywhere' Will Be Big Business in 2014

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Mike Tighe By Mike Tighe

As we kick off 2014, the reach of Ethernet business services continues to broaden. Both our company and our partners continue to see organizations of all sizes switch from legacy technologies to Ethernet across a wide range of industries, from the Boston Ballet and Utz Quality Foods to the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos and other professional sports teams.

According to Vertical Systems Group, 2012 was the first year that global bandwidth purchased for business Ethernet surpassed installed legacy services bandwidth. We saw this trend accelerate in 2013 and expect the gap to widen this year and beyond.

As the availability of Ethernet business services continues to expand through fiber build-outs and new services like Ethernet over HFC, we hear from our partners and their customers that trying to run a business today on one or more 1.5 Mbps T1 lines is untenable (similar to trying to stream movies over a dial-up connection).

So the big question is not whether businesses need Ethernet — it’s whether Ethernet is available and how soon they can get it.

Given that market context, the unofficial theme for business services in 2014 seems to be “Ethernet, Ethernet, Ethernet."

With that in mind, we’ve put together a few Ethernet predictions for the channel this year:

  1. 10 Megabit per second Ethernet is the “new T1." Ethernet is quickly replacing legacy T1 lines as the technology of choice for businesses to connect their various offices in a single network and create a high-speed connection to the Internet. Because a standard T1 only offers 1.5 Mbps, getting 10 Mbps is a big jump in performance and is quickly becoming the standard. For example, the City of West Haven, Conn., has 10 Mbps and 20 Mbps Ethernet connections that link City Hall with 17 other municipal locations.
  2. It’s time to take the “Metro" out of Metro Ethernet. Ethernet is available far beyond metropolitan areas, and is connecting businesses across state lines and the country. We are moving into the age of “Ethernet everywhere," and the “Metro" qualifier will be dropped for Ethernet services. For example, snack maker Utz Quality Foods replaced T1s with Ethernet to connect facilities in Hanover, Pa., with Sterling and Fitchburg, Mass.
  3. For Ethernet, it’s all about your “footprint." By footprint, we mean the geographic network reach to deliver Ethernet services. This is the key to providers and their partners bringing Ethernet to more businesses. Whether it is connecting multiple locations in a city, between states or across the country, footprint will be the “Holy Grail" for Ethernet providers in 2014. As pitchers and catchers start reporting this month, a good “footprint" example comes from professional sports. With our network in 39 states, we were able to provide Ethernet Internet access to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park as well as JetBlue Park, the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.

As organizations of all types and sizes select Ethernet, the drivers are pretty clear: boosting bandwidth to support Wi-Fi for employees and customers, connecting to cloud-based applications, and increasing use of private cloud dedicated interconnect.

However, whenever we talk with our partners, the truth is that most of their customers don’t have time to think much about Internet, voice and TV. They’re just too busy. As a result, many of them don’t even know there’s a difference among providers or that Ethernet can often provide much more bandwidth for similar or even less cost than legacy technologies.

This challenge also represents great opportunity for the channel and we have been expanding our channel program to keep pace with the market. One example is SYNNEX Corporation, the first IT distributor to serve as a master agent for our Ethernet, Internet, voice, cloud and TV solutions through its network of 30,000 VARs.

Looking ahead, we plan to continue to expand our partner program and network reach to deliver the best Ethernet services to as many businesses as possible. We like to think of ourselves as an industry leader with the soul of a start-up. We are a company built from the ground up, and built for business.

And we head into 2014, let me know if you agree with my above predictions (or not), or if you have any predictions of your own. Where are you seeing Ethernet make the most impact in your business?

I look forward to your comments!

Michael Tighe is the executive director of data services for Comcast Business Services. In this role, he leads the development and implementation for Comcast’s data solutions portfolio, including Internet and Ethernet services for businesses of all sizes. Tighe has an extensive background in enterprise networking and IT services. Prior to joining Comcast, he led Verizon’s consumer and business strategy organizations and was instrumental in launching key next-generation network services including carrier Ethernet and MPLS. He also served at several networking and IT services companies in vice president and COO positions and was chairman of the board for the Metro Ethernet Forum from 2004-2006.

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