Gigabit Ethernet empowers broadband

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By Antony Savvas, Rome

Cisco and its partners explained at IDC's Telecoms Forum last month how service providers across Europe are using Gigabit Ethernet to connect users to broadband multimedia services in urban areas.

Mark de Simone, Cisco VP, technology solutions and corporate marketing, told delegates, "The benefits of Internet business solutions must be extended to SMEs and the residential market. Our strategy is to promote metro Ethernet."

A wider take-up of Internet business solutions via broadband could increase Europe's GDP by 30% when considering EU and OECD financial parameters, he said, but telcos would only build such networks if they see a quick return.

Local traffic is changing: 80% is now routed in the metro area; the remaining 20% is in the WAN. Gigabit Ethernet is the cheapest way to deliver bandwidth for either LAN, MAN or WAN applications on a port by port basis, he added.

De Simone's estimates on the growing importance of Gigabit Ethernet showed that, by 2005, Gigabit Ethernet would be 10 times cheaper than ATM, and not far off 100 times cheaper than SDH.

Cisco's strategy now involves selling its routers and switches to service providers and telcos in the metro market to enable them to connect businesses and multi-tenanted units (MTUs) to deliver high-speed Internet connections for voice and data.

Where Cisco has already struck deals, customers have enjoyed multi-media services like digital TV, video conferencing, music, household security, video on demand, and gaming at speeds far faster than the 500kbit/s possible via ADSL.

All this is made possible via 10/100/1000 Mbit/s access directly to users via copper, fibre and wireless using direct Gigabit Ethernet connections from the metro optical transport backbone.

With MTUs - the main focus of Cisco's attention - a switch sits in the basement of the building and is fed an IP multicast from the metro core router. The bandwidth is then split to the various end-users who have signed up to the service. Service providers who are already feeding customers services this way include FastWeb in Italy, which is providing a metro Ethernet service to users in cities including Milan, Turin, Genoa, Naples, and Bologna.

FastWeb's 100,000 customers are also located in Hamburg, Germany. Customers pay around 50 euros a month for all their voice and data services, which includes Internet connections through standard TVs as well as PCs.

Another company using Cisco's solution is B2 in Sweden which has connected 220,000 households across 40 cities. It has 80,000 paying subscribers who pay around USD30 a month to get a two-way 10Mbit/s broadband connection - 20 times faster than ADSL which only works at 500kbit/s when receiving data.

De Simone says, "Broadband is not just a regulatory issue, it is a matter of will." Cisco believes the newly created Greater London Assembly in England for instance, should offer incentives to businesses, local communities to create metro Ethernet networks elsewhere in Europe.

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