lci International answers Obuy or lease? question

Aug. 1, 1997

lci International answers Obuy or lease? question

Paul Palumbo

lci International, McLean, VA, will begin migrating network traffic to wholly owned fiber facilities in the Fort Worth, TX-to-Chicago, IL, and Fort Worth-to-Los Angeles, CA, corridors this year, a trend Ron Kelley, vice president of network planning at lci, says will continue. There are numerous fiber builds along those corridors by interexchange carriers, and there is a lot of traffic flowing between those points. lci will have many intermediate drop-off points where traffic can be collected and gathered.

Olci is at a point in its history where fiber expansion opportunities across the U.S. allow it to migrate traffic from leased to owned plant,O comments Kelley. The leasing prices charged by companies with deployed fiber?and the equipment to light it?are getting more expensive as demand for bandwidth grows from end-users. OIt?s getting more expensive to lease fiber than to buy it and operate it yourself,O Kelley says.

lci owns about 1400 route-miles of fiber clustered primarily in the Midwest (see figure on page 20). Fiber recently purchased from ixc Communications, Austin, TX, will add another 3100 mi. A total of 12 fibers were purchased from ixc, and lci recently struck a deal with Alcatel Network Systems, Richardson, TX, for the electronics to power its new, non-zero dispersion-shifted fiber. lci also has singlemode fiber throughout its network.

The Fort Worth-to-Chicago segment was scheduled to be operational by the middle of July. The Fort Worth-to-Los Angeles link should be illuminated by November. OExtending our network to the West Coast has been an objective,O says Kelley.

lci plans to deploy the OC-48 (2.5-Gbit/sec) Synchronous Optical Network (Sonet) protocol along its new fiber routes initially, and eventually move to OC-192 (10 Gbits/sec). OThe modularity of OC-48 fits our business plan better than OC-192 at the moment,O says Kelley. OFrom an overall cost perspective, there is not as much up-front investment with OC-48. With the use of wdm [wavelength-division multiplexing] and the optical amplifiers supplied by Alcatel, we expect to build second and third channels very cost-effectively.O

The network is a 4-fiber, linear-based topology that will eventually be closed by fiber rings. Paul Harrison, Alcatel?s senior director for lightwave/Sonet networks, and John Adler, product management for optical networks, maintain that a big advantage of a 4-fiber solution is that closing the ring is a matter of Osoftware downloads.O

Harrison says Alcatel is installing a single platform, cards, shells and optics, and the only upgrade difference would be the software loaded onto that platform. The initial software will include Release 3.1.2 of the company?s 1320 NM network management package. The 1320 NM can manage OC-48, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (atm), and other linear network products.

OSoftware allows operators to act as a terminal, an add/drop multiplexer, unidirectional ring node, or a bidirectional ring node,O Harrison explains. According to Alcatel, special optics for special applications are unnecessary; there can be a single set of boards and a single set of spares.

A 4-fiber solution also allows the deployment of both span- and ring-switching redundancy protection, according to Harrison and Adler. The 4-fiber bidirectional rings use span switching to withstand a partial fiber cut; protection takes place only between the two affected nodes. OIt happens independently of the ring,O says Harrison. If the entire cable were cut, the OringO would act as a single entity and effect a ring switch, or send traffic from one ring to the other in the opposite direction and make protection available on both ends of the fiber cut.

With 2-fiber rings, lci could only use ring switching. Such protection increases overall bandwidth availability?which is exactly what companies like lci, Qwest, ixc, and others are selling, the Alcatel sources say.

The lci network is equipped to handle sts-1, sts-3c, sts-12c, and sts-48c payloads, which means it can accommodate atm traffic. It is optimized

for bit rates from Oplain old telephone serviceO lines to multicluster supercomputer users, using Sonet protocols. q

Paul Palumbo writes from Seaside, CA.

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