By Stephen Hardy
VPS Communications Inc. (Richmond, VA), a wholly owned subsidiary of Virginia Power, is the latest utility spinoff to turn to dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) as a means to increase its wholesale bandwidth and services resources. The carrier has tapped Alcatel to supply Optinex 1640 optical add/drop multiplexing equipment for its expanding network.
Using a 3,200-mi fiber-optic network, VPS Communications provides DS-1, DS-3, and OC-N services to wholesale and large retail customers. The network runs throughout Virginia, including points-of-presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, as well as in Richmond and Norfolk. Planned network extensions will bring access to Charlottesville. In addition, a partnership with CFN FiberNet offers connections throughout the southeastern United States.
According to Mark Nietubyc, senior manager of technical marketing and business development at Alcatel's Transport Systems Div., the Optinex 1640 can be configured in three different ways-as an end terminal, inline amplifier, or inline amplifier with add/drop capabilities. Initial equipment deliveries will include end-terminal and inline-amplifier configurations, although Nietubyc indicated that delivery of the add/drop capabilities should follow during the lifetime of the contract. He declined to reveal the length of the delivery contract nor the contract value; VPS Communications had not responded to inquiries at press time.
The Optinex 1640 currently can provide 40 channels of OC-48 (2.5-Gbit/sec) traffic spaced 100 GHz apart. However, Nietubyc revealed that system upgrades based on out-of-band forward error correction will be available later this year. These enhancements could allow OC-192 (10-Gbit/sec) transmission, larger channel counts, or greater transmission distances, depending on how the new capability was employed. Nietubyc says Alcatel engineered the system to provide as many as 240 channels of high-speed traffic at 50-GHz spacing.
As relative newcomers to telecommunications service provision, some utilities have turned to a variety of sources for help. "For a lot of what they're doing now, they do look to the telecom world for guidance in the deploying of their networks, because a lot of what they'll do is they'll turn around and sell their capacity off to larger customers. They'll be like a carriers' carrier in terms of deployment," Nietubyc says. They will also turn to their equipment suppliers; Nietubyc reports that VPS Communications made use of a network planning tool Alcatel has developed. The system vendor may package this tool as a separate offering, he revealed.
While utilities are doing their best to blend in with more mainstream carriers, they do have some unique attributes, says Nietubyc.
"Some of the differences may be found in maybe the internal communications infrastructure that they have set up for the particular utility itself that may be nonstandard telecom rates," he reports. "So what you would have to do is you'd have to deploy a piece of equipment that will support not only SONET-type TDM [time-division multiplexing] traffic but also asynchronous, nonstandard telecom rates that you would not see in the everyday telecom world."