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Carrier Ethernet 2.0

Infinera Powers Rural Backbone Provider

Much has been made lately about data center connectivity, and how those connections are driving the bandwidth explosion in the metro market. So it's interesting to note that Infinera's latest packet-optical customer announcement actually involves a not-for-profit wholesale transport provider -- yeah, I didn't know there was such a thing either -- that is more focused on bringing bandwidth and connectivity to under-served rural areas.

Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp. (MBC) is deploying Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN)'s PXM packet switching module on its existing deployment of the vendor's DTN-X platform, which it used on a long-haul fiber network built between its local access presence in southern Virginia and key connection points in Ashburn, Va., and Atlanta. Launched as a co-op in 2004, MBC has parlayed $10 million in grants, including two federal stimulus awards, into an 1,800 route-mile fiber optic network reaching business and industrial sites throughout 26 mostly rural southern Virginia counties. Using an open access wholesale model, MBC offers connectivity services to 45 carriers.

The new deployment will let MBC add Carrier Ethernet and MPLS-based services to its repertoire, directly connecting 100Mbit/s router ports at multiple university sites to enable them to have Internet2 access to Ashburn. But MBC isn't offering the universities a service -- instead it is bringing them on board as co-investors to help finance a needed capacity upgrade, says MBC President and CEO Tad Deriso. His company partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliances, another non-profit corporation, which provides shared technology infrastructure to Virginia's major research institutions.

"We needed an upgrade and they needed capacity," he tells Light Reading. "So we asked them if they wanted to co-invest and then get capacity on that network for the next ten years. It's a little different approach."


Read more about Gigabit Cities and the expansion of gig services in our Gigabit Cities section here on Light Reading.

The DTNX can provide up to two terabits of capacity in each direction, he notes, and MBC lit a 500Gbit/s line card, giving each of its two university partners a 100Gbit/s service out of that total. The rest can be used in chunks as small as 10 Gbit/s to serve other carriers' customers, Deriso says.

What the Infinera PXM lets MBC do is offer integrated Ethernet and MPLS switching over wave-division multiplexed channels so that it can deliver transport services that can be adjusted to match demand. The system converges Layer 2 functionality with lower layers for the existing resources.

"We are still a dumb pipe provider, but using this [packet-switching module] allows us to be very creative at Layer 2," says Deriso. MBC can provision dual paths using a single port to create the research backbone to Ashburn, for example, making the most efficient use of its network resources. A private network configuration would require separate connections.

MBC breaks even on the project construction, which is fine for its non-profit model, Deriso notes. The company does earn quite a bit of revenue but that is put back into network expansion and upgrades.

MBC's focal point is bringing quality connections to areas which were facing economic devastation due to loss of jobs and population, Deriso notes. Its part of the US once was home to manufacturing of textiles, furniture and more, but most of those goods are now made more cheaply abroad. Without broadband connectivity, the southern Virginia region would not have been able to attract any new businesses and would continue to see younger residents move away, he says.

The investment MBC has made in the area is paying off, he says, citing research which shows its $10 million investment has helped generate $1.7 billion of private sector investment and more than 1,100 jobs. That investment includes large data centers built by Microsoft and HP in rural South Virginia.

"Being able to get 10Gbit/s services up and running within the same day has been a real game changer, to help us attract jobs and investments," Deriso says. Prior to MBC's arrival, the only options were T-1 lines from incumbents, which often took weeks or months to get.

Deriso credits Infinera with living up to promises made back when the DTNX was originally deployed, which included being able to use the same line system as speeds are increased. That makes this upgrade more seamless and affordable, he says.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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