Short-haul in focus

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CeBIT 2002 reflected the industry's switch in focus from long-haul transport to multi-service networks for metropolitan area networks.

By Mark Telford

With fibre-based telecoms still in slowdown through over-capacity in long-haul routes (particularly in the USA), most network equipment suppliers at CeBIT emphasised a shift in focus from transport capacity to customised multi-service networks. These will target new, higher-value service-oriented markets in the metro area, independent of the various protocols and interfaces required.

Until recently, new operators wanted to "throw out SDH, SONET and DWDM", says Bjorn Olsson, Ericsson's head of transmission and transport networks. But, with newer carriers such as Global Crossing, Level 3 and Qwest in trouble, incumbents now have a chance to catch up. Ericsson's metro access segment director Jos Baart says that 70-80% of revenues are from incumbents, who are "back in the driving seat".

Hari Harran, Lucent Technologies' chief technology officer for EMEA, asserts that, despite the cloud hanging over telecom carriers, there is "value waiting to be unleashed in the networks". This does not mean more of the same, he says, but a shift from connectivity to value-added traffic.

But there is now a bottleneck in the metro area, says Olsson. So, to give higher access speed, attention is turning to integrating access, metro and regional networks and providing intelligent optical networks which can direct traffic.

Also, the growth of Internet and multimedia broadband applications is placing new demands on existing switching infrastructures. Unfortunately, current networks are not scalable, Harran says. A network can support thousands of phones, but not 10 videoconferences. The demand for handling a mix of voice, data, video and Internet traffic - connecting voice calls in real time and carrying large, irregular bursts of data - is driving the replacement of multiple disparate networks with a single packet-based multi-service IP network. Compared to circuit switching, by allocating network resources dynamically, packet switching is more efficient, flexible and offers higher potential capacity. The use of IP supports the integration of services and their delivery across different access networks and end-user devices.

To support packet-based multimedia, telephony-based operators must upgrade. "Service providers now realise they need to spend on broadband. If the service providers don't, then someone else such as Microsoft will, and service providers will become a commodity," Harran adds. "Over the next six months companies showing value will attract investment. Deutsche Telecom could be one of the companies to shift focus and become a true service provider."

Correspondingly, Harran says Lucent has re-focused from thousands of customers to just the top 50 service providers. A consequence of the downturn is a management shakeout, speeding formation of IP partnerships with service providers.

However, incumbents need to support their existing investments in infrastructure for legacy circuit-switched services, requiring the integration of SDH, SONET or WDM. In the USA the transition to multi-service networks is via a slow, scalable migration rather than total change. In contrast, Europe is ahead on deployment and should be more ready when the economic cycle picks up (with Ericsson, for example, addressing SDH rather than SONET).


CeBIT launches highlight multi-service metro and access developments
Siemens IC Networks' Multi-Service Metro Power solution (pictured) provides integration of applications from both carrier and enterprise areas. This gives network providers greater flexibility while retaining existing infrastructures.

The configuration integrates TransXpress TDM and DWDM multiplexers. Control is by the Telecommunication Network Management System. Version 7 of TNMS and includes management of Ethernet-over-SDH; SONET will not be catered for until version 8 in 2003. This transmits voice- and data-based services such as SDH, IP, SAN and video via a common platform.

Multi-Service Metro Power offers intelligent network functionalities and central management functions, enabling reliable transmission in the Terabit range over thousands of kilometres plus multi-service aggregation. TransXpress supports migration of SDH/SONET to DWDM and transparent networks with next-gen SDH/SONET, multi-service DWDM and optical IP.

Start-up Iamba Networks says its first product, a single multi-service access platform, eliminates the need for edge switches, aggregation routers and bandwidth managers by integrating their functions into one device. It packages data, voice and video for delivery to end-users, enabling IP-centric services with guaranteed QoS/SLA. Initial applications are for SME and residential users. Greenfield FTTB and FTTH implementations are expected in second-half 2002.

The architecture integrates optics, protocol processing and IP handling. Legacy and next-generation services are streamlined over a single fibre, supporting access network topologies including point-to-point (GigE, SONET/SDH), point to multi-point (PON) and "mini-ring".

Use of best-fit protocols and topologies enables new services. A "pay as you grow" access network evolution includes migration to next-generation networks.

"Our platform applies innate packet/frame processing functions to achieve service awareness that enables delivery of customized services and new revenues streams. By providing a next-generation platform, we offer carriers a long-term, highly flexible and scalable infrastructure," says CEO Guy Benhaim. "Carriers are refocusing on service-oriented markets," he adds.

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