One of the constant challenges in the field of business telecommunications is interoperability. Whenever new and faster communications technologies are released, they rarely get to stand alone. They have to be able to tie into existing networks and, very often, coexist side-by-side with other network hardware that could be decades old. Bridging these networks, based on wildly different technologies, is vital to having a unified communications network.
We'd like to say this process is easy, but most of the time, it requires highly complex equipment.
The DS3 Transcoder-Multiplexer, or DS3 MUX, is a perfect example of this. The basic idea behind it is simple enough: A DS3 MUX allows you to take a DS3 connection (you might also call it a T3 line) and bridge it to an optical network that's using the SONET format. The most likely reason you'd need one is if you're taking a collection of existing T1 lines and combining them into a single T3, while still keeping connected to the traditional phone system.
Let's talk a little more about what this means.
(If you're not messing around with T3 lines at the moment, this might be a good time to go browse some of our other informative blog articles, since it gets more complex from here.)
What a Mux Does And Why You Might Need One
OK, so... Strictly speaking, most DS3/T3 lines are a multiplex built out of 28 separate T1 lines. Very often businesses will be adding T1 lines until they hit the point it makes more sense to switch over to DS3, since it requires less wiring and equipment as well as providing slightly more reliable speeds.
This process itself is quite complex, and requires an intermediate stage which could be called a T2 line, although T2 is never used by itself. None the less, at this point we have equipment that can handle the changeover by itself and no one except your network operator should ever need to worry about the details. (It used to require a manually-configured switchboard, and boy were those days fun.)
Now, once you get outside of your building and into the larger phone network, there's the SONET system. SONET stands for Synchronous Optical Networking, and it's the standard format used for fiber optics and other optical communications lines. SONET needs to be able
to handle both traditional analog phone service as well as high-speed data transmissions, so it acts more like a carrier for several different formats, with each data stream taking up, at most, as much bandwidth as a single T1.
However, this is all stuff your phone service carrier worries about, so that you don't have to.
The problem comes from bridging them. SONET uses synchronous data transportation, meaning that the various connections all use the same bandwidth at the same time and software at either end figures out whether it's data or voice or whatever. DS3, optimized for data alone, uses an asynchronous format where the different data types are not always kept “side by side,” to optimize for speed rather than accommodating different data types.
So, the difference between SONET and DS3 signals is a bit like the difference between DC and AC electric current.
A DS3 MUX performs the necessary bridging function. It takes the different DS3 signals, breaks them apart, and then recombines them into the synchronous format that SONET needs, and vice-versa. It allows the signals to flow smoothly from one network to the other without hitting a termination point or losing data.
Today, more modern MUX systems also include full routing services and may also have a built-in modem for remote access. Either way, it's one of those pieces of equipment where either you need it, or you don't.
If you're having difficulty getting your new T3 line up and going, don't hesitate to give us a call and we'll help out as best we can!