Amsterdam Gets Active With FTTH

Active Ethernet has won out over passive optical network (PON) technology in Amsterdam's fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) CityNet municipal network. (See Amsterdam Commits to FTTH.)

The €30 million (US$35.5 million) project, which will initially connect 40,000 homes in the Dutch capital, will be built using dual fiber connections to buildings and active Ethernet technology, which will be installed and managed by wholesale carrier bbned, says a CityNet spokesman.

And it's clear from the home page of CityNet's Website that the project's decision-makers decided an active Ethernet approach, where each user has a dedicated fiber connection to the Ethernet equipment in the carrier's facilities, was the best way to deliver the bandwidth per subscriber needed for potential and future applications.

CityNet replicates a chart from a Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK) white paper that shows active Ethernet delivering up to 100 Mbit/s per customer, while PON, where a fiber is shared by multiple users, can't deliver anything above 39 Mbit/s.

Riverstone suggests that PON won't be able to support the simultaneous delivery of bandwidth-hungry multiple services such as high-definition TV (HDTV) streams and online, multiplayer, high-definition gaming.

Unfortunately for Riverstone, CityNet, which will own the fiber, is not choosing that telecom equipment supplier for the project. Those decisions are being made by wholesale service provider bbned, which will rent the fiber from CityNet, light it, and manage it. Once it is built and ready for commercial use, capacity will be made available for any service provider to use, whether commercial or not-for-profit, at non-discriminatory conditions.

And bbned, a subsidiary of (NYSE: TI), has chosen its long-time infrastructure partner (Nasdaq: CSCO). Folkert Moolenburgh, bbned's manager of cyber services, said his company "evaluated various suppliers for the FTTH access platform, but we wanted to use industry-proven technology. We had already used Cisco's technology in a pilot project in Rotterdam, and it delivered good quality of service."

While Michiel Panders, Cisco's service provider sales manager for the Netherlands, is coy about exactly which technology it will deliver for the project, Moolenburgh says it's likely bbned will deploy the vendor's Catalyst 4500 Ethernet switches.

He says the Rotterdam deployment is a good proof point for the Amsterdam rollout. "Rotterdam is a small project, with about 1,500 homes connected with fiber," says Moolenburgh, "but it has proved the provisioning model. The City of Rotterdam owns the fiber and is managing the access network, and there are four companies providing services, such as IP VPNs, and triple play with 100 channels of IPTV. So there is competition -- the open network model is working in Rotterdam."

Now, bbned has to show it can deliver similar success in Amsterdam. Moolenburgh says the rollout timetable will be determined by the fiber build, which is being managed by a separate contractor, but he expects to start deploying new equipment in the third quarter of 2006.

And if the initial phase is successful, and CityNet can raise further funds to hook up Amsterdam's other 380,000 homes with fiber, "we will be bidding to do the rest of the city, too," says Moolenburgh.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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