Southern California Edison enters wholesale services market

Public electric utility Southern California Edison (SCE--Los Angeles) will start to offer wholesale services to carriers this month, selling capacity on its regional Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) fiber network, under its telecommunications arm, Edison Carrier Solutions (Rosemead, CA). The investor-owned SCE serves more than 11 million customers in a roughly 55,000-sq-mi area in central and southern California. Certified as a competitive local-exchange carrier (CLEC) by the California Public Utilities Commission last December, Edison Carrier Solutions is a rate-payer-financed asset that will use SCE's fiber network to lease capacity; the division will share revenues with the SCE rate payers. Incremental expenses such as additional fiber and electronics will be financed by shareholders.

Like many other utilities exploring additional revenue opportunities, SCE has dabbled in the communications arena during the last four years, leasing dark fiber, providing attachments to wireless carriers, and building more-than-needed capacity into its own fiber network. In July, SCE signed a two-year contract with Osicom Technologies Inc. (Santa Monica, CA) to purchase its GigaMux metro dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) solution for use in 37 nodes on its fiber-network backbone. The utility is also in the process of establishing collocations in 24 Pacific Bell and GTE central offices throughout southern California.

"We've started to establish some discrete rings that will be used to provision our commercial circuits," says Corey Ford, vice president and general manager of Edison Carrier Solutions. "And we're doing part of that with DWDM equipment.

"Our goal here is to provide capacity, transport services, everything from DS-1s [1.544 Mbits/sec] to OC-48s [2.5 Gbits/sec] to other carriers-interexchange carriers, CLECs, wireless carriers, cable-TV companies, Internet service providers, you name it; whoever has a need for metropolitan services," explains Ford. Edison Carrier Solutions will initially focus on SONET-based services, and evolve the network according to customers' service needs.

Unlike DWDM in long-haul deployments where additional capacity is the decision driver, in the metro market, the green light often rests on a system's cost and flexibility. According to Solomon Tessema, general manager of IT communication services at SCE, the DWDM system appealed to the utility because of its wavelength scalability, bit rate, protocol transparency, and the ability to add and drop bandwidth on demand anywhere in the network. Available since November 1997, the GigaMux metro-DWDM solution is currently a 32-wavelength system that can support OC-48 capacity at distances of up to 200 km. The products purchased by SCE include the GigaMux system itself, OC-12 (622-Mbit/sec), and OC-48 interfaces as well as optical add/drop multiplexers.

Another factor in the utility's purchase decision, according to Ford, is that the DWDM system will allow Edison Carrier Solutions to address market demands in a timely fashion. "Time-to-market is important to this customer and really should be important to all customers," concurs James Chitkowski, vice president of sales and marketing for the optical-networking division at Osicom Technologies. "You measure your optical capability in terms of costs, and you measure your opportunity costs and your ability to address a market quicker than competitors." Unlike a lengthy fiber construction, "the first implementation of this equipment to build-out 37 nodes went out in 30 days," he reports.

SCE is planning to initially build-out the regional DWDM backbone with a SONET overlay. The first phase is to put in a DWDM backbone for that entire area and then, over the next two years, add capacity as required.

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