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Optical/IP

ADVA, Ethos Enter Ethernet Backhaul

LONDON -- Two vendors, ADVA Optical Networking and Ethos Networks Ltd. , announced their entry into the Ethernet-based wireless backhaul market today at the Ethernet Expo Europe 2009 show.

Both vendors unveiled new Ethernet products for cellular backhaul and have got in on a market that is set to have a massive growth spurt in the next few years. According to recent research from Heavy Reading, 25 percent of the world's cell sites will be served by an Ethernet service by the end of 2012, compared with just 2 percent at the end of 2008.

Ethernet-based backhaul is a compelling technology choice for mobile operators because it promises higher capacity at lower costs compared to traditional TDM-based services. And it appears to be a prime technological weapon to combat operating costs as mobile operators' data traffic now grows at a far faster rate than revenues. Backhaul typically accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of network opex for mobile operators, according to Richard Strike, business development manager at ADVA.

ADVA's new product, the FSP 150C-GE206, is a network interface device (NID) targeted at fixed-line operators providing fiber-based Ethernet services to mobile operators for backhaul transport. Interestingly, it supports two synchronization standards -- synchronous Ethernet (SyncE) and IEEE 1588v2. (See ADVA Targets Cellular Backhaul.)

Meanwhile, Ethos introduced a new high-capacity Ethernet switch, the E-240, based on Provider Backbone Bridging (PBB) and PBB – Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE) and aimed at mobile backhaul. Like ADVA's new product, the Ethos switch supports SyncE and 1588 synchronization standards. (See Ethos Does Ethernet Backhaul.)

Timing is everything
The lack of standardization for synchronization technologies, which are critical to Ethernet backhaul, is the main reason why operators have been slow to deploy Ethernet-based backhaul.

The uncertainty around synchronization has forced some operators to maintain a legacy E-1 connection even when they have deployed Ethernet backhaul. Heavy Reading finds that such a hybrid TDM/packet architecture will account for most of the Ethernet backhaul connections through 2010, after which pure Ethernet will dominate.

"While carriers test syncE and 1588, until they're completely comfortable with the robustness and reliability of the standards, they'll continue to leave an E-1," says Patrick Donegan, senior analyst at Heavy Reading.

But having two different standards doesn't necessarily mean that operators and vendors will need to pick just one.

"For many carriers, syncE and 1588 are not competitive standards, quite the contrary," says Donegan. "Some operators will deploy both synchronization standards in parallel in the same backhaul deployment."

Telefónica de España has been trialing Ethernet backhaul systems and plans to launch services this year for its own mobile network and for selling to other mobile operators, Francisco Santos, the operator's enterprise service development manager, told the conference audience here at Ethernet Expo Europe.

Santos said the operator plans to have 200 to 400 cell sites connected within in the first year. Telefonica will deploy the Ethernet backhaul alongside a legacy E-1 connection, said Santos, as "synchronization is the main concern here."

Santos said Telefonica was testing equipment from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and other vendors in the trial.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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