New pan-European network to support petabit speeds

Aug. 1, 1999

A pan-European network, announced in late June, is billed by the parent company, Interoute Telecommunications, as the first network able to support petabit (1000 Tbits/sec) capacity upon completion. The i-21 Network, a venture of Interoute subsidiary i-21 Future Communications, will cover 20,900 route-km, link 70 European cities, and connect to 200 points of presence.

How will the network reach petabit speeds? Rapid technology advances--some of which have yet to occur, the company admits. The majority of the network's fiber, about 80%, will be Corning's nonzero dispersion-shifted G.655 fiber, known as LEAF, designed to support high transmission rates and channel counts via a larger effective area within the fiber core.

The i-21 Network will feature 192 fiber pairs; each pair is expected to support 160 channels at line rates of 10 Gbits/sec. Therefore, each network duct will support 300 Tbits. Network design allots up to five ducts for additional fiber. Therefore, when and if the network becomes fully operational, it will support petabit bandwidth capacity.

Designed as a series of inter-country rings, i-21 will offer inter- and intra-country connections, including links to postal, telegraph, and telephone (PTT) companies.

Paris-based equipment vendor Alcatel landed a $1.5-billion contract to oversee the project. Alcatel will serve as network integrator and as contractor with other suppliers. The network will use Alcatel's dense wavelength-division multiplexing technology, Synchronous Digital Hierarchy transmission system, and some of the company's TeraLight fiber products.

The i-21 network is expected to become operational in May 2000 with the completion of five rings. The second phase of the project, the construction of the final three rings, is scheduled to start in December. While i-21 executives declined to disclose specific financial information, they assert that the network is fully funded.