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Corvis Completes First Field Trials

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
7/11/2000

Corvis Corp http://www.corvis.com announced today that its equipment had been used to support multiple OC-48 (2.5 Gbit/s) connections over a distance of 3,200-km without electrical regeneration of the light signals. The trial was conducted by Williams Communications Group http://www.williams.com.

Big deal? Yes, from a couple of points of view.

First, this was a trial over Williams' regular network. In other words, it was under field conditions using whatever fiber it had in the ground, probably with less than perfect connections. Most of the other long distance records that have been claimed have been achieved in labs, where the type of fiber and other conditions can be picked to deliver impressive results.

Second, this is further proof that Corvis isn't just talk. A couple of weeks ago, another of Corvis's potential customers - Broadwing Inc. (NYSE: BRW) http://www.broadwing.com - announced that it had completed trials of Corvis's complete product suite. This includes not only its ultra-long distance DWDM (dense wave division multiplexing) gear but also its all-optical switch and its net management system.

Up until recently, Corvis had garnered quite a reputation for bragging about what its developments could do without explaining what it was that enabled it to achieve these feats. It's still tight-lipped about its technology, but at least it's coming up with some proof that it actually works.

That's hardly surprising because Corvis is preparing for an IPO which could end up giving it a market cap of $15 billion or more (see Corvis Sets Price Range for IPO). Corvis has been forced to disclose what it's doing in its S1 filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. And as it hasn't got any revenues yet, the success of its IPO is heavily dependent on prospective customers giving its gear the thumbs up.

Williams' first trials transmitted traffic over 16 channels at 2.5 Gbit/s, which is less than spectacular for short distances or lab experiments, but is quite creditable over long distances in the field. "It's pretty impressive just to show the ultra long haul optics working over that distance in a network like Williams'," says Scott Clavenna, principal analyst with Pioneer Consulting LLC http://www.pioneerconsulting.com. "The next step is to get the channel count and the bit rate up."

As it happens, Williams is already planning a more impressive test that will up the channel count to 160 over the same distance at 2.5 Gbit/s.

While Corvis has already announced support for OC-192 (10 Gbit/s) transmission speeds, Williams only tested it at 2.5 Gbit/s. Rumors have circulated through the industry that it has had difficulty with its 10 Gbit/s interfaces. Corvis flatly denies that there is any substance to those rumors. It says that its 10 Gbit/s hardware is simply going through the normal de-bugging process required when developing any new networking equipment.

Technology from Corvis's acquisition of Algety Telecom SA could help Corvis in developing better high speed long reach optics. Last year, Algety demonstrated 51 channels of 20 Gbit/s over a 1,000 kilometer link (see Corvis Boosts IPO With Acquisition). "The Algety acquisition could provide one way to get to 10 Gbit/s transmission speeds," says Clavenna. "Theoretically, it may even get them up to 100 Gbit/s."

Corvis is not alone in this area. Qtera Corp. http://www.qtera.com, which was bought by Nortel Networks http://www.nortel.com and Alcatel SA http://www.alcatel.com both claim distance records (see Going Long On Light). Qtera says it's demonstrated 56 channels at 10Gbit/ up to 4000 km. Alcatel says it's done 80 channels at 10 Gbit/s for 3000 km. However, these are lab tests, not field trials, which makes a big difference.

by Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com

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