360networks to light four continents


By Mardi Balgochian Scalise

By mid-2002, 360networks (Vancouver, British Columbia) will light up more than 90,000 mi, linking more than 100 major cities with terrestrial and submarine cables. The planned network will join North America, South America, Asia, and Europe.

In February, 360networks lit 3,800 mi of its European fiber-optic network. This link spans the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, providing connectivity between 16 major cities, including London, Manchester, Paris, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Hamburg. Although ready for commercial deployment, the 1,900-mi German link is still pending regulatory approval. The United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands are scheduled to enter service in March 2001.

In addition, 360atlantic-a transatlantic cable between Europe and North America-is scheduled for service by the second quarter of this year. Following in May, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden come into play. The entire European network is scheduled to enter commercial service by the end of this year.

"This marks an important milestone in our aggressive European rollout of broadband and collocation services," said Ashwin Chitamun, vice president of 360networks' European division. "Our lit network will provide our customers in Western Europe seamless connectivity to our extensive global network linking four continents."

To help the company realize its goal, it is calling on Sycamore Networks for optical switching and network management and Cisco Systems for Multiprotocol Label Switching technology and Internet Protocol transport systems. Nortel Networks and Fujitsu will also play major roles. Fujitsu is new to the 360networks stable of equipment vendors, having been involved only since last summer.

For the network infrastructure, 360networks purchased and will deploy technology from NKF Kabel, a subsidiary of Draka Holding NV, a Netherlands-based international provider of fiber-optic cables. 360networks will be using NKF's technology only in the North American segment. NKF's expertise involves the use of compressed air to jet multiple miniducts into conduits. Each miniduct can contain up to 60 strands of fiber. "We can save up to 50% on our initial installation costs," says Ron Stevenson, vice chairman of 360networks. "Instead of installing a cable with several hundred fiber strands, we have the flexibility to install up to 10 micro-cables over time, each with up to 60 fiber strands."

The initial bandwidth of the European network will average 60 Gbits/sec, with the capacity to increase to 9.6 Tbits/sec, and the architecture enables the company to introduce new services and revenue streams more quickly. "We can install or replace fiber faster to take full advantage of the latest advances in fiber technology. This is a much more cost-effective and advanced strategy than initially installing either a large number of conduits or large quantities of fiber," Stevenson adds.

Although the network allows scalability and flexibility, the company will light only the portions of the network it needs. Its strategy is to light the network "just in time" to meet growing demand.

To ensure quality, 360networks' European Networks Operation Center in Maidenhead, UK, will monitor the European network and segments of 360atlantic. A network operations center in Denver will focus on customer traffic on other segments of 360atlantic as well as the North American network. Both centers have the ability to monitor global traffic.

Contrary to industry rumors of the carrier market slowing, 360networks is moving ahead full-steam with a defined business plan to complete its entire 93,000-mi network by mid-2002.

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