Chinese carriers step toward optical internetworking

Chinese carriers step toward optical internetworking

By STEPHEN HARDY

While the Asia-Pacific market attempts to regain its feet after the blow delivered by the regional financial crisis, China has maintained a consistent program of upgrades to its fiber-optic infrastructure. Having poured millions of dollars into optical communications technology over the past year, both national and provincial Chinese carriers now look to place their networks on a par with those of leading carriers in the United States and Europe. According to Cisco Systems (San Jose, CA), this desire has led several companies to embrace optical internetworking as a path to the provision of multiple services based on Internet protocol (IP) transmission.

This optical internetworking trend has arisen "in the last few months," according to Kelly Ahuja, product manager for Cisco`s Gigabit Switch Router (GSR). "In some of the places a few years ago in China, you couldn`t even get telephone service," he says. "And right now, they`re rolling out fiber quite extensively throughout the country--and that`s creating a lot of opportunity."

Cisco has announced sales of the GSR to China Telecom, the country`s national carrier, as well as to Shanghai Online. It also will deliver the gigabit-speed routers to cable-television companies in the province of Guangdong and the city of Dalian. In each instance, the equipment will provide IP-based transmission of multiple services over fiber-optic backbones. For example, China Telecom will use six GSRs for its "163 Network," a pan-China IP backbone network that the carrier has been upgrading with optical networking technology for the past year.

Cisco made a point of touting the potential of optical internetworking to obviate the need for Synchronous Optical Network/ Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (sonet/sdh) multiplexers through direct connection of the GSR to dense wavelength-division multiplexing gear when it first introduced the concept last year in conjunction with CIENA Corp. (see Lightwave, June 1998, page 1). The announcement also highlighted Cisco`s commitment to OC-48c interfaces for such interconnection, with the promise of an OC-192c interface sometime this year.

However, Ahuja reveals that each of the new Chinese applications will rely on traditional SDH backbone networks at relatively low speeds. For example, Shanghai Online will use the router`s packet-over-SDH capability to provide Internet service via its SDH backbone. The carrier will transmit at a top speed of OC-3.

The cable-television market represents a growing niche for optical networking, says Ahuja. In the United States, companies such as MediaOne have embraced the concept. The fact that similar carriers in China have also agreed to the philosophy so early in the development of their infrastructure could lead to the continued adoption of optical internetworking in this emerging market, Ahuja says. "Typically, what I`ve seen in China in the past is that it goes province by province," he explains. "First there is a central organization, or the Bejing area, or the Shanghai area, which are more advanced and are probably taking the lead in terms of defining what the architecture should be. And then those [models] start to get accepted in the rest of the country as well."

The key factors for optical internetworking in China include a realization of new traffic patterns driven by Internet access as well as the availability of fiber-optic infrastructure, says Ahuja. Chinese carriers will look both within the country and outside--particularly toward the United States--for reference models that illustrate how the access demand side of the equation can be met by the infrastructure supply side. Ahuja is confident that architectures based on optical internetworking will prove increasingly popular in China and throughout the region. q

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