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Planes, automobiles move on Horizon Hobby's T1 network.

Six years of rapid growth, along with escalating long-distance phone bills, convinved Horizon Hobby last year to begin investigating cost-saving alternatives for our voice and data network.

Since Horizon Hobby's founding in 1985, we have grown to become one of the industry's largest distributors of high-end radio control airplanes, cars, helicopters and boats, which are sold through retail hobby outlets worldwide.

In 1986 we opened a branch office in California and in 1988 expanded to Virginia.

Retail hobby shops call us via toll-free lines and place orders through these two branches, or through our headquarters office in Champaign, Ill.

Order processing, inventory control and administrative functions are also performed on-line via our network. Our growth meant increased traffic on our voice lines and increased response time for our remote offices performing on-line order entry functions.

T1 for voice, data

To reduce our long-distance voice costs, this past Spring we selected AT&T's MegaCom Service and installed a T1 circuit carrying 22 channels of voice traffic between our corporate headquarters and AT&T's local CO (central office). Within the first three months, we realized a 20 to 30% savings in long-distance charges on incoming toll-free and out-bound long-distance service.

We found we needed a similar cost-saving solution for the data side of our network; the remaining two channels on the T1 circuit gave us the opportunity to step up to high-speed digital communications.

While 56 kb/s digital circuits had been available to our California and Virginia sites, they were not available to our corporate office. Because of this limitation, we were using 9600 baud analog lines for critical on-line applications.

With more than 20 terminals and several printers at each remote location, this analog network had tremendous bandwidth problems, resulting in serious response time delays. At 9600 baud, it took more than two seconds just to send a full screen of information. We investigated several options to address this problem including data compression and statistical multiplexers, but these required significant investment in additional equipment while providing a limited set of benefits.

The solution was to maximize our new high-speed digital service to also carry data traffic via a network of dedicated T1 and 56 kb/s digital circuits.

We decided to install full T1 circuits carrying 23 channels of voice and one channel of data traffic from our California and Virginia offices to AT&T COs; 56 kb/s circuits between COs would carry the data between our locations.

DSU/CSU equipment

Initially, our PBC Center attempted to split out two data circuits from the T1 line with its equipment.

Due to proprietary technology, the PBX equipment was incompatible with the DSUs at our remote sites.

We briefly considered installing a T1 multiplexer, but its hefty price tag and compatibility problems with our PBX equipment eliminated this possibility.

We tried "piggybacking" two singleport DSUs so that each one could split off a channel, but this proved unacceptable.

What we needed was an affordable, standard terminal interface that allowed us to support hybrid voice and data applications. We selected the DataSmart T1 Add/Drop DSU/CSU from ADC Kentrox because it was the first product that allowed us to split out more than one data channel for both voice and data applications.

Multiport capability is important to us because of our network design. At our corporate headquarters, an IBM AS/400 handles the entire company's data processing functions. Each branch office is equipped with remote controllers, terminals and printers.

Since data circuits run between the corporate site and branch offices, we needed to be able to patch the two data channels into the T1 line dedicated to voice. DataSmart's additional port allows us to do this.

Performance monitoring

When we signed up for AT&T's MegaCom Service, we decided to add the ESF (extenddd superframe format) facility data link option to monitor our T1 backbone.

DataSmart is ESF-compatible, giving us the capability to perform non-instrusive testing to monitor the line, spotting problems in advance and avoiding degradations or failures.

Since installing the T1 network and DSU/CSU equipment, Horizon Hobby has been able to reduce voice and data transmission costs.

The data circuits patch into the T1 network making it less expensive to purchase a 56 kb/s segment versus an entire 9600 analog circuit. The remote response time for on-line transactions is down to one to two seconds, which is close to our local response time. We also have the capability to monitor and control our backbone T1 network from one location.

Future plans for our network include possibly adding voice over data multiplexers to transmit inter-office voice and fax calls via the 56 kb/s circuits. This will let us connect our three PBSx together and implement advanced features such as call forwarding and direct station dialing between our offices.

If traffic picks up, our DSU/CSUs will allow us to increase the bandwidth to 128 kb/s or more on our data circuits.

Companies like ours must always cost-justify and cannot purchase new equipment simply because it may be faster. Intelligent multiport DSU/CSUs offer some of the same basic functionality as high-end multiplexers costing up to fivd times as much, and are often better suited to handling high-speed data than traditional T1 multiplexers. This gives small- to moderate-size companies the ability to take advantage of advanced technological developments.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Retail & Wholesale
Author:Easley, John
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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