Verizon opens up fiber-optic network to wireless carriers

MARCH 27, 2009 -- Verizon is using its Ethernet-based fiber-optic network to link cellular towers and mobile switching offices.

MARCH 27, 2009 -- To support the growing demand for top-quality, high-bandwidth wireless services, Verizon (search Lightwave for Verizon) has begun using its advanced fiber-optic network to link cellular towers and mobile switching offices.

The new links, provided by local Verizon fiber-optic facilities across the country, enable wireless carriers to offer next-generation services at ultrahigh-quality levels that are difficult to achieve using traditional copper-based or microwave links.

Thousands of Verizon Wireless cell sites and mobile switching offices across the country are among the first being networked using the Ethernet-based fiber-optic technology, under a contract negotiated with Verizon Partner Solutions, the company's U.S. wholesale division. The Verizon fiber links are available to other wireless carriers as well.

Quintin Lew, senior vice president of marketing for Verizon Partner Solutions, says, "In an increasingly wireless-dependent society, cellular carriers like Verizon Wireless are engineering their networks to meet both the exploding voice and data traffic demands of today and the capacity requirements that next-generation wireless technologies like LTE and WiMax will place on their facilities.

"Using fiber for what's called the 'backhaul' of traffic -- from cell sites to the broader voice, data, and video networks -- provides an extraordinarily reliable option for the carriers. And Verizon Wireless has recognized that," he concludes.

Verizon's fiber backhaul technologies include a switched Ethernet service; an all-Ethernet option; and an Ethernet-over-SONET choice, where the data are sent using SONET technology and that provides dual routing of traffic through separate facilities and near-instant recovery should one of the links go down. In each case, data from the cell site is converted immediately to packetized data for transport to mobile telephone switching offices for distribution over appropriate networks.

Nicola Palmer, vice president of network support for Verizon Wireless, says, "Verizon's fiber-optic Ethernet backhaul capabilities play an important role in our current network and will be a key part of our overall 4G/LTE rollout strategy. We have invested more than $5.5 billion on average every year in expanding and fortifying our network capabilities to ensure we maintain our reputation as the nation's most reliable wireless network."

Lew adds, "Current traffic demands and emerging broadband services and traffic volumes are eclipsing the capacities of older technologies, and wireless carriers are increasingly realizing the fiber is the link to the future. Fiber backhaul leverages the features only fiber optics can provide."

Besides virtually unlimited capacity made possible by adding additional wavelengths of light to feed more data onto fibers as needed, fiber networking is considered more reliable because there are fewer electronics in the links. Also, fiber does not suffer the same impact of weather or electromagnetic interference that can plague microwave and copper-based links.

Carriers are designing and are expected to begin deploying the new super-capacity wireless broadband technologies known as 4G services this year. These will be capable of the kinds of broadband speeds needed not just for mobile users but to deliver broadband through fixed-location systems to customers in rural areas that are difficult to reach with cable-based technologies.

Verizon's fiber-backhaul availability leverages both the company's transition in recent years from copper to fiber in its transport facilities as well as its aggressive FTTH deployment that is delivering FiOS Internet and FiOS TV services in parts of 16 states, and that puts fiber within reach of approximately 85% of various carriers' existing cell sites.

"We have the right technology in the right place at the time," Lew says. "Wireless carriers will find value in switching from traditional backhaul links to the higher-value connections we can give them with Ethernet and SONET services on fiber."

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