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Optical/IP

PBT: New Kid on the Metro Block

PBT is one of the latest must-have telecom monograms, although the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802 Standards Committee – ever one for snappy monikers – seems determined to weary every journalist’s fingers by renaming it PBB-TE. But even that can’t stop Provider Backbone Transport technology from making waves in the press and definite ripples among service providers and their suppliers.

And they increasingly look to be more than ripples, following BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)’s well publicized endorsement in mid 2006 of the technology in its massive next-generation network project, the 21CN, and growing industry support for a standard. (See BT Likes Nortel's New Ethernet Flavor and Cisco Tracks PBT Standards Process).

So a good round 60 percent of service-provider respondents to a poll in the Light Reading Webinar on which this report is based said they would consider using PBT for two or more of the following metro applications: business E-line or E-LAN services, residential triple-play services, and wireless backhaul.

But uncertainty abounds. Only about a quarter of the respondents thought that PBT could replace Sonet/SDH equipment or enhance carrier Ethernet with traffic-engineering capabilities; and only 40 percent thought it would be cheaper than the current favorite technology for converged metro networks – MPLS.

Certainly, PBT’s protagonists are promising good things from the technology. In particular, they say that:

  • PBT provides an opportunity to radically "de-layer" the metro.

  • It eliminates concerns about Ethernet viability in carrier networks.

  • It equips Ethernet to step up to a bigger role in the network.

  • It appears to have capex and opex advantages that make it attractive to some carriers.
Perhaps most unsettlingly for service providers and carriers, PBT challenges the conventional wisdom that IP/MPLS is the way to go in next-generation networks (NGNs) – especially in the metro. So are carriers going to have to rethink their NGN strategies? That’s a huge question, and this report doesn’t aim so high. Instead, it aims to put PBT into context by looking at its development and some key questions – considering pros and cons, comparing it with alternative technologies, and considering how it might coexist with them.

Here’s a hyperlinked contents list:

Webinar

This report is based on a Webinar, Ethernet’s Core Question: The Case for PBT, moderated by Simon Sherrington, Independent Consultant, on behalf of Light Reading, and sponsored by Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) and Nortel Networks Ltd. . An archive of the Webinar may be viewed free of charge by clicking here.

Related Webinar archives:

Light Reading Insider Report

PBT's Carrier Ethernet Appeal, Simon Sherrington, Analyst, Light Reading

— Tim Hills is a freelance telecommunications writer and journalist. He's a regular author of Light Reading reports.

Next Page: PBT: Why the Fuss?

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