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Verizon Switches On 100G in Europe

Carol Wilson
12/14/2009
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Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) today announced the first commercial deployment of a 100Gbit/s ultra long-haul fiber-optic link to handle live traffic, using Nortel Networks Ltd. gear on a 555-mile route between Paris and Frankfurt.

The decision to deploy a 100Gbit/s system, rather than multiple 10Gbit/s systems or a 40Gbit/s system, was based on the economics of serving the anticipated traffic on this link, and the availability of Nortel gear to do the upgrade, says Stuart Elby, Verizon's VP of network architecture and enterprise technology.

"That particular route between Paris and Frankfurt has tens of gigabits on that fiber, and we were looking at having to throw many more 10G systems onto it," says Elby. "The maturity of 100Gbit/s is there -- we are using Nortel, and they have a 100Gbit/s system that is generally available. We looked at the business case and it was less costly to add 100Gbit/s than 10 or 15 10Gbit/s systems."

Nortel was chosen by Verizon for its European optical upgrade in November 2007. (See Nortel Takes 40-Gig to Verizon.)

Verizon was able to add the 100Gbit/s signal to a single channel, using the same spacing between wavelengths that is used today.

This deployment heralds a trend of service providers moving straight to 100Gbit/s technology from 10Gbit/s, rather than deploying 40Gbit/s systems, says Sterling Perrin, senior analyst and optical specialist at Heavy Reading.

"Right now, this is the first commercial application of 100Gbit/s, so [this trend] is not going to happen in 2010," says the analyst. "But once the standards are set, which will be in 2010, our sense is that operators will prefer 100Gbit/s if they can get it, at prices less than 10 times 10Gbit/s."

Perrin believes this is good news for Nortel and Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), which is on course to buy Nortel's optical business. (See NSN Hopes Dashed as Ciena/Nortel Deal OK'd and Ciena Beats NSN to Buy Nortel's MEN.)

Ciena has also had success with a metro 100 Gbit/s solution, which it regards as complementary to Nortel's technology. (See Ciena Sending 100GE Live.)

"Nortel has a good lead on the rest of the market," says Perrin, who notes that Verizon has also done trials in North America with Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Nokia Networks . Neither of those vendors has made their 100Gbit/s systems commercially available yet.

"We were the industry's first with a live traffic trial of 100Gbit/s back in 2007, using prototype breadboard equipment from Alcatel-Lucent, but it wasn't generally available gear so we took it back out of service," says Elby. "We are working as quickly as we can, but it's actually being done on a vendor-specific basis. We look at a vendor's route and if we can upgrade on that same fiber plant to a 100Gbit/s channel, that is the cost-effective way to go."

Elby says he expects AlcaLu and NSN to have 100Gbit/s systems for commercial deployment beginning in 2010. The next hurdle, once transport efficiency is achieved with 100Gbit/s, is routers with 100Gbit/s ports, Elby notes, but that's likely to be 18 months or more away.

Perrin says optical equipment vendors have learned from their 40Gbit/s experience, and are making the rollout of 100Gbit/s technology more coordinated.

"40Gbit/s wasn't as cohesive a rollout -- there were a lot of different modulation schemes and vendors did things differently," says the Heavy Reading man. "When they hit 100Gbit/s, they decided to go with a more standardized approach. As a result, 100Gbit/s has things that 40Gbit/s will never have. If 100Gbit/s stays on track, we think a lot of operators will just go to 100Gbit/s and cap their 40Gbit/s deployments. There will be applications for 40Gbit/s, but we are not going to have a mass deployment of both -- it makes sense to grow with one or the other," concludes Perrin.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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