Windstream Communications today unveiled its plans to use Infinera's DTN-X optical gear to build its first national long-haul network based on DWDM.
The network announcement marks a major success for Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) and a significant step forward for Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN), which has been assembling fiber optic assets through acquisition during the past few years and is now ready to hook them up. (See Infinera Lands Windstream DWDM Buildout.)
In this instance, the "national" aspect doesn't actually include the West Coast, although further acquisitions to push Windstream's physical assets beyond Denver, where they currently end, can be expected. For now, CTO Randy Nicklas, an industry veteran who led XO Communications Inc. s' national buildout, is focused on creating a network capable of supporting the massive growth in bandwidth from mobile backhaul, cloud services, business data networking, and even consumer broadband. (See Windstream Names Nicklas CTO.)
"We have bandwidth demands and we have an interesting fiber plant, concentrated in two-thirds of the country," Nicklas told Light Reading. "What we don't have is a national long-haul DWDM network. We have chosen Infinera and the DTN-X to build that network, hitting major metro areas, to match our existing regional roadmap. It's a great platform for our needs."
Windstream is clearly standing up to compete more aggressively, in delivering a wide variety of services and in connecting its 27 data centers to build its cloud offerings as well. (See Windstream Makes Regional Cloud Play.)
Specifically, Nicklas says, Windstream likes the ability to turn services up quickly using the Infinera box, especially the 100G wavelength services. Infinera's software uses the combination of its 500Gbit/s FlexCoherent superchannels and integrated 5Tbit/s optical switch to enable automated service delivery.
"Establishing an actual wavelength service is easier to do on an Infinera platform and that adds up for Windstream, because we are new to the long-haul intercity DWDM space," Nicklas says. "We don't have a lot of experience among our technical staff so ease of use was an important consideration as well as ease of deployment."
Windstream will not be deploying new long-haul fiber -- the company does add new fiber today but in what Nicklas terms "tributary" routes. One of its challenges will be knitting together a single network using physical fiber of many different types from its many acquisitions, which include Paetec, KDL, Iowa Telecom and more. (See Windstream's Plan for Paetec and Windstream Buys Iowa.)
"There are lots of challenges from having different fiber types," he says. "We are doing a small amount of moving existing lightwave systems off of fiber to clear the road, but for the most part, we are using fibers that were dormant."
That means turning up optical systems to test the fibers, repair breaks, and address issues such as too many splices.
"Basically, we have to keep building the track ahead of the train," Nicklas says.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading