UK bank plans fibre WAN


The Co-Op Bank's proposed new fibre-based wide are network (WAN), as well as supporting internal traffic for 6,000 employees, will also increase the access performance of the bank's online banking service known as Smile (

The bank was starting to experience some traffic problems and bottlenecks in its existing WAN, which was initially installed 14 years ago.

The existing network is a TDM network with routers from Infotron, which are no longer upgradable or supported. With the bank also wanting to upgrade its outmoded Token Ring-based LAN, which relies on obsolete 3Com hubs, it contracted Fibernet to deliver not only greater bandwidth but the local network scalability to deliver applications like video streaming and VoIP (voice over IP).

Keith Girling, the Co-op's director of technology, said the bank had a choice of three bids for the new installation. One of the bank's incumbent network suppliers suggested an ATM solution that would bolt on to the existing TDM system, but this would have been more expensive to gradually upgrade in response to traffic demands, says Girling.

A second operator offered a Gigabit Ethernet MAN solution, but Girling says this didn't offer enough resiliency. Instead, Fibernet has been chosen to supply an optical network that will be instantly scalable up to 1Gbit/s and above.

The bank's five main clearing, computer and call centre sites in north-west England are linked by two 100Mbit/s fibre connections, which are in turn linked to the company's main clearing centre in London via Fibernet's national fibre network. There is also a 45Mbit/s connection to the Co-op's disaster recovery site.

Ultimately, Fibernet will deliver up to 100Mbit/s (Fast Ethernet) to the desk, using the bank's copper infrastructure.

Fibernet chief executive Charles McGregor, says: "With this new network we can offer the Co-op any amount of bandwidth it needs. The more it uses, the cheaper it becomes."

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