Turning Copper into Gold

Oct. 5, 2001
Providing new Internet services over old copper wiring

Commercial building owners today have the option of offering their tenants high-speed Internet services as a shared building amenity, in the same way tenants share electricity and water - reaping additional revenue from an investment already made into the building infrastructure. However, owners must carefully evaluate their technology option for delivering Internet services, as it can have a major impact on their profits.

Coaxial cable, copper-based digital subscriber line technologies (DSL), or wireless technologies: Which is the most appropriate? While each solution is capable of delivering broadband connections and services, each may also present challenges when the unique needs of multi-tenant buildings (MTUs) are considered.

In the case of cable, owners must heavily invest in upgrading networks to accommodate high-speed, two-way Internet data traffic. Moreover, the aggregated nature of MTUs means that Internet speeds diminish as multiple users share the same cable lines.

Wireless technology may initially seem to be a better, more "future-friendly" choice. However, while wireless is capable of delivering high speeds, the technology is still in its relative infancy. It can be extremely expensive, and issues like reliability and security are not yet proven.

In contrast, DSL, any grade, is a mature technology. It runs over existing copper telephone wires, which means it doesn't require costly and time-consuming infrastructure upgrades.

Admittedly, DSL presents challenges. It is a point-to-point technology, requiring a direct connection from the telecommunications carrier's central office to a user's PC. In the case of a densely populated building, multiple lines are required to serve multiple users. And because DSL utilizes a copper voice line, additional filters or splitters must be installed to avoid interference and maximize connection quality.

Fortunately, there are scalable, high-density network systems - designed for installation in the central wiring closet or basement of an MTU - that enable owners to deploy high-speed Internet services for relatively little effort, at a reasonable expense. They work seamlessly with any existing copper wiring system, regardless of grade, which means that regular phone service is never interrupted when tenants access the Internet.

These network systems are compatible with any connection to the Wide Area Network, such as T-1 lines, cable modem connections, or fiber, as well as xDSL. The WAN connection is linked to the network system in the wiring closet. From there, the system delivers data to individual desktops at distances of 500 to 2,000 feet, at speeds of at least 15 megabits per second.

Since access alone isn't enough to satisfy tenants - or to provide building owners with much extra revenue - there are also copper-based, multi-service systems to support additional revenue-generating broadband services. The new systems allow for customized delivery - and billing - of data, voice, and video services to individual tenant companies and even each desktop, in much the same way that tenants now have customized voice services.

These self-installable and self-provisioned multi-service systems are highly adaptable to the individual needs of property owners and tenants.

Look closely at your old copper wiring. You may find some hidden gold!

Mark A. Carpenter is executive vice president of product marketing and development at Tut Systems (www.tutsystems.com), Pleasanton, CA.

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