MCI demonstrates world's first ULH optical transport connection at 40 Gbits/sec

June 15, 2004
June 15, 2004 Ashburn, VA -- MCI today announced a technology trial in which 40-Gbit/sec traffic ran seamlessly over the carrier's existing 10-Gbit/sec backbone on a 1200-km link between Sacramento and Salt Lake City. While MCI representatives are hesitant to suggest a timeline for the deployment of 40-Gbit/sec technology beyond today's trial, they remain bullish that such technology will be required in the future, reports News Editor Meghan Fuller.

June 15, 2004 Ashburn, VA -- MCI today announced a technology trial in which 40-Gbit/sec traffic ran seamlessly over the carrier's existing 10-Gbit/sec backbone on a 1200-km link between Sacramento and Salt Lake City. While MCI representatives are hesitant to suggest a timeline for the deployment of 40-Gbit/sec technology beyond today's trial, they remain bullish that such technology will be required in the future, reports News Editor Meghan Fuller.

The technology trial took place over MCI's ULH DWDM optical network route between Sacramento and Salt Lake City, UT. The route was selected because it uses the company's existing fiber plant and includes a mix of fiber--TrueWave Classic, Dispersion Shifted Fiber (DSF), Long Span Fiber (LS) and Single Mode Fiber (SMF)-- illustrating the real-world scalability of the MCI network.

The trial included equipment from Mintera Corp. (Lowell, MA) and CIENA Corp. (Linthicum, MD). Mintera's production quality MI 40000 40-Gbit/sec DWDM fiber-optic transport terminals interoperated directly on CIENA's CoreStream Agility optical transport system, which provides an automated ULH backbone for the MCI network.

"We literally plugged the Mintera transponders into the CIENA WDM system, applied power, and commissioned the system," explains Jack Wimmer, MCI's vice president of network architecture and advanced technology. "It took us about an hour from the time we applied power to the Mintera equipment to the time we were successfully passing traffic over the system. It actually worked better than we hoped it would," he admits. The 40-Gbit/sec wavelength performed error-free on the same optical fibers already carrying 10-Gbit/sec wavelengths throughout the trial.

Today's announcement builds on MCI's previously announced optical networking plans. In February, the carrier announced an all-optical ULH network build that would initially support 10-Gbit/sec transmission but would be engineered to support 40-Gbit/sec in the future. Last month, MCI broke new ground with what it claimed was the fastest intercity Internet Protocol (IP) transmission ever.

According to Wimmer, the growth of MCI's IP traffic is a key driver behind its decision to forge ahead with this 40-Gbit/sec trial. "Our IP backbone today is trunked over 10-Gbit/sec wavelengths, OC-192. There are multiple OC-192 wavelengths in place between several of the core routers, because there is sufficient traffic to drive that kind of demand," he says. "It is just a matter of time before you reach a cross-over where you say, 'It is more efficient and more economical to trunk one 40-Gbit/sec wavelength rather than four 10-Gbit/sec wavelengths. There are fewer ports, less transmission. It's a simpler network to manage.'"

Wimmer also points to increased customer interest in 40-Gbit/sec transmission capabilities. Several of MCI's customers--including government entities, research network interests, and large corporate enterprises that require the transmission of large volumes of data--have asked the carrier to help them map a migration path to 40-Gbits.

MCI hopes the trial will help stimulate demand for faster transmission speeds. "It has been kind of a chicken/egg thing," admits Wimmer. "Forty Gbits/sec hasn't been needed because it's been so expensive. Until you get it to a reasonable cost point, it probably won't be deployed. Part of what we're doing here is saying, 'You know what? We can get the economics of this to a point where we think it makes sense.' This trial is preparatory work so that as the market need comes, we can respond very quickly."

--MJF

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