MEF starts countdown for "carrier-class" Ethernet launch

4 March 2003 -- Key specifications for Metro Ethernet services will be finalised by August 2003 according to Nan Chen, President of the Metro Ethernet Forum, who was speaking at a landmark MEF conference.

4 March 2003 -- Key specifications for Metro Ethernet services will be finalised by August 2003 according to Nan Chen, President of the Metro Ethernet Forum, who was speaking at a landmark MEF conference in London.

"Metro Ethernet is one area of IT tipped for outstanding growth, despite the current economic downturn, and both major players and hot start-ups in the telecom arena now have this summer highlighted as a critical turning point," he said.

The Forum set the August target completion time for both Ethernet Line (point-to-point) Service (E-Line) and Ethernet LAN (multipoint-to-multipoint) Service (E-LAN) specifications across the metropolitan area. This removes the final obstacle, the lack of a standardised Ethernet service specification, for a rapid global service revenue predicted to exceed USD14bn by 2005.

"It's the green light for an eagerly awaited market opportunity" said Chen. "The last decade has seen LAN capacity expand some 100-fold, and backbone capacity more like 300-fold - that's how much people want connectivity - while the real bottleneck has been in the metropolitan area, with a bare 16-fold increase.

"Until now, metro networking has come at the cost of a major step change from Ethernet to more expensive, less familiar and less flexible technologies like ATM or SONET/SDH. All that is set to change with the advent of carrier-class Ethernet services and transport."

"In survey after survey, European carriers confirm Metro Ethernet as their hottest area within the transmission market", said Ian Keene, VP and Chief Analyst, Gartner Group. "Even where overall spend is flat or reducing, the metro area is where their budget is focused. Over the past three years, European carriers have been working towards a 100% IP infrastructure for delivering services to their enterprise customers.

"The real drawback has been the bandwidth limitations in the metro area - spending there is a very high priority according to current research. And that's just the top end of the market: at the other extreme there's a significant opportunity for start-up companies offering low-cost bundled services to homes and small businesses."

Metro Ethernet allows far more flexible bandwidth allocation - say from 1Mbit/s to 1Gbit/s in 1Mbit/s steps - and it can even be adjusted on demand by the user. From the user perspective Ethernet is a familiar technology using low-cost mass-market hardware and existing maintenance skills.

"In the immediate economic climate, the strongest argument could be financial" Nan Chen points out. "Our case study, spanning three years with one large site (over 500 employers) and four medium sites (over 100 employers) showed a 73% saving over traditional private line connectivity, and 77% over traditional frame relay. What's more, the bigger the sites the better the percentage saving, especially for Internet access. And looking ahead, we are opening the doors to a whole new range of other services - secure off-site backup, IT outsourcing over Ethernet and desk-to-desk video telephony to name but a few."

To cater for such a wide range of applications, a set of service attributes has been defined - including physical interface, traffic parameters, performance parameters (availability, delay, jitter and loss), class of service, service frame delivery, VLAN tag support, service multiplexing, bundling and security filters.

Traffic parameters, for example, define a number of bandwidth profiles subdivided according to Ethernet Virtual Connection (EVC), User-Network Interface (UNI), Class of Service (CoS) identifier and so on.

The user may require a certain minimum guaranteed bandwidth - or Committed Information Rate (CIR) - coupled with assurance that service won't fail during typical bursts, defined by a Committed Burst Size (CBS). At the other extreme you can set a Peak Information Rate (PIR) and Maximum Burst Size (MBS) above which the data will be discarded for the sake of overall service.

The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) was created in June 2001 to accelerate the worldwide adoption of Ethernet in metro networks. It consists of over sixty member companies representing leading Ethernet service providers, major incumbent local exchange carriers, top network equipment vendors and others. Though strongly represented in the USA, it sees Europe and Asia as the key areas possessing the greatest potential for immediate growth in Metro Ethernet.

For further information visit

More in Packet Transport