Carrier throws optical bandwidth at quality-of-service problem



Cogent Communications (Washington, DC) will use optical-communications technology in a unique architecture that it believes will provide 100 Mbits/sec of In ternet-protocol (IP)-based ser v ices to commercial customers at a fraction of the cost of current T1 services. Because of the amount of bandwidth available on his network, Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer feels he has created an architecture where quality-of-service (QoS) issues do not apply.

Cogent plans to construct a network that will begin in New York and eventually reach 12 other U.S. cities-Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose, CA-in its initial roll-out. Each city will have a single-fiber backbone, from which fiber strands will run to individual commercial buildings. Cogent has contracted with Metromedia Fiber Network (New York) for the provision of fiber in each of these cities. The company expects to announce a contract for long-haul fiber to connect the cities in the near future.

The Cogent network will operate at speeds as high as OC-192 (10 Gbits/ sec). Physical fiber rings within each city are expected to run at OC-48 (2.5 Gbits/sec) per channel to accommodate the delivery of as much as 2 Gbits/sec to each building, which would in turn be split into 100-Mbit/sec pipes. The significant amount of bandwidth available on the network will make QoS moot, Schaeffer believes, because individual data streams will not have to vie for oversubscribed resources. Thus, the network will enable Cogent to offer "clear-channel" service over an architecture designed to keep customer traffic on the Cogent network for as long as possible. The company plans to offer the service for $1,000 per month.

The hardware to support this infrastructure will come from Cisco Systems Inc. (San Jose). Cogent will buy systems worth $280 million from Cisco, including ONS 15454 Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) transport gear, ONS 15800 WaveMux dense wavelength-division multiplexing systems (part of the product line acquired from Pirelli), and the 12016 Gigabit Switch Router.

Speaking at a Cisco-sponsored press event at the recent OFC conference in Baltimore, Schaeffer revealed that he had not intended to buy all of his optical-network systems from a single vendor. In fact, he had divided his network into four sections-long-haul wavelength-division multiplexer, IP router, metro systems, and edge router-with the intention of examining each area separately to acquire the best equipment in each class. The company evaluated offerings from both established and emerging vendors in each category for availability, technology, price, and support. Schaeffer said he was somewhat surprised when the results of this evaluation turned up the same name in each area.

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