COLT Telecom rolls out Europe's first all-optical networks

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COLT Telecom Group plc (London), a pan-European carrier serving large-enterprise clients and major financial institutions, has completed trials of all-optical metropolitan-area networks (MANs) in London and Paris. These networks are the first demonstration of delivering the full range of telecommunications services (e.g., Internet Protocol, time-division multiplexing, SDH, Gigabit Ethernet, and other data-centric protocols) via optical wavelengths without conversion to electrical signals. The program hints at a new paradigm emerging for metro networks that receive broadband traffic from long-haul networks and must parse signals out to enterprise customers and vice versa.

COLT Telecom's group market director, Leo Todd, views all-optical technology as the right choice for ensuring customer satisfaction. He believes "the all-optical MAN approach will address the huge problem looming with a growing gap between the demand for high-bandwidth access and the inability to rapidly and simply route large volumes of wavelength-distant traffic between the back-haul and the access levels."

Some of COLT Telecom's critics have voiced the concern about how the carrier has invested much more on its customers' premises than other metro carriers. Todd retorts that "although COLT is a very 'fiber-rich' company, when a customer needs a service change and/or upgrade, there is not a reconfiguration of COLT's fiber plant. This is just a simpler procedure conducted in our network-management center with all of the operational benefits and cost savings that you can imagine." Th 0103lwnews05

COLT Telecom's European network routes - live and under construction.

COLT selected the ONI Systems Dynamic Transport System (DTS) solution for its London and Paris MANs. Successfully completed lab tests and extensive field trials in London with the DTS means that COLT will continue to deploy all-optical MANs with future traffic growth.

"ONI and its all-optical-networking technology brings major benefits to COLT and its customer base," says COLT Telecom CEO Paul Chisholm. "In addition to massive increases in the traffic carried over fiber and reductions in costs for broadband services, this technology allows us to offer our customers greater flexibility by meeting new bandwidth and connection requirements instantly. New services can quite literally be set up at the click of a mouse."

ONI's DTS solution comprises the ONLINE 9000 and ONLINE7000 optical transport platforms, the OPTX optical-network operating system, and the OLMP optical link-management protocol suite for internetworking between the optical, data, and voice layers of the network. Integrated together, the DTS is a fully functional metro optical network designed to operate with existing networks and thus provide an efficient and low-cost migration path to an all-optical infrastructure.

The DTS solution supports high channel counts (up to 66 wavelengths) and manages multiple data types such as Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and STM-1/4/16/64. These features, combined with the low initial deployment and operating costs, enabled COLT to create customized solutions to meet its' individual customer requirements, scaling from 100 Mbits/sec to 10 Gbits/sec on each channel with flexibility of traffic format and protection.

While stating that "ONI is further along in selling the whole notion of all-optical networks," Todd doesn't plan to put all of COLT's optical eggs in one basket: "We will continue to maintain our working relations with other optical-network suppliers such as Marconi and Nortel."

Edward Harroff writes on telecommunications issues from Bellevue, Switzerland.

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