Cable Tech

MCI Eyes 40-Gig ULH

DALLAS -- The quest to deploy 40-Gbit/s ultra-long-haul links lives on, and MCI Inc. (Nasdaq: MCIP) says it hopes to have its first commercially deployed 40-Gbit/s network turned on in North America by early next year.

"We're trying to get our 40-Gbit/s network through lab certification this year," says Glenn Wellbrock, director of network technology development at MCI. "I don't know if we will get it deployed, but I hope we do."

Last year, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) announced what it believed to be the first "live-production Internet traffic... carried over a 40 Gigabit link" using gear from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), StrataLight Communications, and Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN). (See Sprint Throttles Up Cisco's CRS-1 and MCI Picks Ciena and Siemens for ULH.) A few days later, MCI and Mintera Corp. announced "the world's fastest Ultra Long-Haul (ULH) connection at 40 Gigabits Per Second -- four times faster than the highest-speed ULH routes deployed today." That milestone was achieved using a long-haul network route spanning more than 1,200 kilometers (see MCI Claims ULH Speed Record).

Wellbrock says MCI has performed three 40-Gbit/s ULH trials in all, and the carrier is inching closer to commercial deployment (see 40-Gig Begins Its Ramp). He says the first trial used equipment from Cisco Systems and StrataLight, while the second trial used gear from Mintera and Ciena. The most recent one used Mintera gear with Optovia Corp. amplifiers -- a setup that uses only about half the amplifiers as found in a traditional long-haul network (see Optovia Doubles Amplifier Reach). Wellbrock says MCI was able to build a link that stretched over 1,600 kilometers with amplifiers placed 160 kilometers apart.

Plenty of other service providers have conducted trials of 40-Gbit/s and even 160-Gbit/s ULH transmission technology. (See, for instance, T-Com Selects Marconi , Lucent Lands Lambdas at Verizon, Carriers Stress Test Their Fiber, and Siemens Claims 160-Gbit/s Milestone.)

But service providers like MCI aren't just concerned with building newer, faster networks. "There are several things we're looking to do with data if we could, beyond just moving it and storing," Wellbrock says. He says that, in the future, MCI could offer services whereby it moves a company's data, stores it, processes it, sorts it, and makes it more accessible based on pre-defined criteria.

"If we just move data, there's a limited amount of revenue we can get out of that," he says.

Wellbrock, whose job entails evaluating new optical and data technologies to support next-generation networks, says MCI has also taken a liking to grid computing (see MCI Goes Ultra Long). He says the carrier has "significantly reduced" the number of servers it is running internally, yet it has increased its available computing power thanks to grid computing, powered by high-bandwidth connections.

The business case for grid computing presents a company like MCI with two challenges, Wellbrock says. First, how will the carrier provide that kind of connectivity? Second, how will the ultra-long-haul network evolve once those connections are made?

Wellbrock says he's scrambling to answer those questions -- and any others that might crop up -- as he prepares to speak at The Future of Optical Networking in Dallas. The one-day conference will evaluate the infrastructure and services that are fueling the evolution of optical networks. The Light Reading-sponsored event will take place on Tuesday, April 12, at the W New York Union Square in New York City, and on Thursday, April 14, at The Fairmont Dallas.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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