Fueled by regulatory changes, liberalization, and network privatization, Pan-European operators deployed 6 million km of fiber in 1999, with similar volumes forecast for 2000. This represents a 300% increase over the long-haul fiber installed in Europe in 1997, according to the latest study from KMI Corp. (Newport, RI), Networks of Fiber-based Pan-European Carriers: Market Developments and Forecasts.
The study finds that, since January 1998, more than 20 pan-European network operators have announced plans to build fiber-optic networks. Another group of pan-European carriers will be leasing fiber or capacity to provide services to end-users, bringing the number of European carriers offering services over fiber to 40. According to the study, the geographic scope of the networks is unprecedented in Europe. Many of the pan-European carriers like Level 3, Qwest, MCIWorldcom and Metromedia Fiber Network are U.S.-based and intend to connect their networks in Europe with their North American networks.
Patrick J. Fay, KMI analyst and project leader for the study, comments, "What's remarkable is how many operators are building cross-border networks. Before 1998, the thought/model was to build a pan-European presence by sending traffic over a network of allied carriers, such as BT and France Telecom are doing. Instead, the majority of carriers are obtaining the necessary infrastructure and operator licenses in each country that will permit the construction of networks using the latest fiber and equipment. Theoretically, the cost of operating the network will be lower and more competitive," Fay explains. "The goal for both U.S.-based and pan-European carriers is, at some point, to carry traffic worldwide on their own networks, rather than hand off traffic and pay sizeable interconnection costs to other carriers."
The study also found that, in addition to backbone networks, carriers such as COLT and MCI WorldCom are extending their reach to business customers by building out metropolitan area networks, which grew in number from 1 to 35 between 1993 and 1999. KMI estimates that pan-European carriers will install more than 600,000 fiber-km in metro networks this year. Other carriers may choose to acquire strategically located city carriers to fit into their growth plans.
To accommodate the strong demand for capacity, the fiber-based carriers are using cables with high counts--typically more than 100 fibers, says KMI. This approach lets some carriers sell or lease fiber pairs to recoup construction costs. "At the time I was researching the report, fiber counts in Europe on the whole were lower than in the U.S., especially in metropolitan networks," Fay reports. "Cable with 288 and 432 fibers is much more commonly used in the U.S. metro networks, while 144-fiber cable is most frequently used in Europe. That's changing." Fay notes that Completel, a French CLEC building metro networks, is using 288-fiber cable in selected cities like Paris.
The new carriers are specifying non-zero dispersion-shifted (NZDS) fiber in their backbones, which is optimized for transmitting multiple wavelength channels over long distances. The study expects NZDS fiber to account for 75% of new fiber-based pan-European network deployments. Pan-European operators appear to be following the U.S. in this practice, Fay says. "Many of the operators like Qwest, MCI WorldCom, Metromedia Fiber Network, Viatel, and Level 3 either have U.S.-based networks or are headquartered in the U.S., so the use of NZDS is similar to network deployments in North America."
By Susan Fogarty, Online Editor