Access provider and telco link fiber network skills
In an unusual teaming agreement for the telecommunications industry, natural business competitors Nynex Corp. in New York and MFS Telecom Inc. in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, have combined their technical resources to install a high-speed synchronous optica network.
According to industry analysts, the seven-year, multimillion dollar contract marks the first time a regional Bell operating company and a competitive access provider have worked so closely to deliver a single-service private network.
The teaming arrangement evolved because a customer--Citicorp in New York--wanted a seamless private-data network to link 10 locations in New York and New Jersey. The specified 150-mile fiber-optic Sonet network had to connect seven Citicorp nodes in Manhattan, two in New Jersey and one on Long Island, as well as support speeds to 2.4 gigabits per second.
Via their suppliers, both companies provided fiber-optic cables, electronic equipment and network facilities for their portions of the network. Citicorp is initially using the network to send trading and marketing information and associated data. Eventually, the company plans to transmit video images.
The bidirectional, line-switched, OC-48 network supports data traffic in both directions and as many as 32,256 simultaneous telephone conversations. The ring architecture automatically reroutes the data in the backup direction should the original path cease operation.
In late 1993, Citicorp issued a request for proposals outlining its required network architecture. The network aimed to carry mostly T1 and T3 traffic involving 10 nodes. Some nodes were located at customer locations, and some at interexchange carrier point-of-presence locations.
The RFP, however, presented some major infrastructure problems. Network requirements mandated the chosen installation vendor support 10 locations spread across New York and New Jersey. Because these two states had to be covered, federal regulations prevented Nynex and MFS from building the entire network alone. A partnership was needed to answer with a complete network proposal response that addressed all 10 locations. The nodes located in New Jersey were outside the regulated territory of Nynex and MFS did not have any fiber installed on Long Island.
"A regional Bell operating company and a competitive access provider working together, as far as we can tell, was the first cooperative bid for such a network," according to Kathy Perone, president, eastern division, at MFS Telecom.
By sharing resources, the two partners were able to satisfy the customer`s needs. Each partner accrued primary responsibility for five of the 10 nodes. In addition, Nynex coordinated all business transactions, new circuit turn-ups and maintenance activities.
According to Rob Pilgrim, managing director, advanced customer networks, at Nynex, "This agreement appears to be the first of its kind, but it didn`t go through easily. By nature, we are fierce competitors, but we knew we had to focus on our mutual customer."
Fortunately, Citicorp allowed teaming in its network proposal. The resolved arrangement was that Nynex and MFS agreed to join together to satisfy the customer`s needs. "On the next deal we are competitors again," comments Pilgrim.
Complementary teammates were needed to bring together the elements each partner could not supply alone. When negotiations started, there was a natural apprehension between the companies.
Remarks Pilgrim, "When you get technical people from two companies focusing on a joint problem, such as satisfying the customer`s needs, company policy barriers drop relatively quickly. The natural adversarial business outlooks disappeared when both sides focused on the same goals."
Citicorp asked for some stringent design and performance parameters that were not previously available. It was a challenge to both companies to meet the demanding performance levels and work schedules. Notes Perone, "Some Citicorp requests were leading-edge Sonet network requirements. The particulars cannot be disclosed at this time, but the installation is the first phase of a technically robust network that will be in place by late 1995."
For most of the network installation, existing fiber layouts were used. However, some fiber sections had to be re-terminated to remove biconic connectors. In its place, ultra D4 PC connectors were installed. These connectors were selected to obtain improved reflection characteristics, typical for stringent OC-48 networks, and to condition the fiber plant for future higher rates. New network equipment was implemented because the installation was made on customer premises to satisfy operational specifications.
An unusual aspect of the installation occurred during the structuring of the OC-48 ring network. Most customers generally have STS-1 or STS-3 granularity--groups of one DS-3 equivalent or three DS-3 equivalents. Moreover, Citicorp wanted to get down to the DS-1 level. For this case, however, before DS-1 granularity is achieved, network capacity is consumed by establishing links between the nodes.
To compensate, the design concept consisted of an embedded OC-3 ring. This approach allowed the multiplexer equipment to provide the DS-1 level access to a high-speed OC-3 interface. But, instead of dedicating point-to-point OC-3 connections between the nodes, the setup of equivalent OC-3 or STS rails within the OC-48 network allowed the reuse of bandwidth around the ring. The design effectively established the positioning of add/drop multiplexers functioning at the DS-1 rate off an OC-48 ring. It also obtained efficient traffic management at the DS-1 rate.
The Citicorp network is running with live traffic; the ring configuration has passed all operational tests. This large, private OC-48 Sonet ring network uses two fibers out of a 12-fiber ribbon cable. Future upgrades might move to a 4-fiber ring as technology evolves in that direction.
Both partners are enthusiastic about the opportunity to take this learning experience and apply it in other situations. Adds Perone, "MFS would consider future teaming arrangements with no limits on any one vendor. Teaming works. The most impacting element of the Citicorp partnership was getting over the initial hurdle of both companies previously having to do everything themselves. It was a departure in thinking about the management of network service and getting through the design and installation process." q