Ethernet equipment

Telefónica Checks Out PBT

Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) is the latest major operator to have checked out the potential of controversial connection-oriented Ethernet technology Provider Backbone Transport (PBT), which is being touted by some as an alternative to MPLS in metro transport networks. (See PBT's Ethernet Appeal, PBT vs MPLS: Round VII, and MPLS: Metro a No-Go?)

The Spanish giant's research division, Telefónica Investigación y Desarrollo, SA (I+D), has completed a set of lab tests using PBT and PBB (Provider Backbone Bridging) technology from Nortel Networks Ltd. , the vendor that's spearheading PBT developments. (See PBT Club Grows, Nortel Pushes More PBT, Nortel Preps New PBT Switch, Nortel Lands More PBT Action, and Nortel on PBT: Today BT, Tomorrow the World!)

Paul Indoo, a member of Nortel's Carrier Ethernet product marketing team, says Telefónica's R&D arm used Nortel's 8600 switch to transport triple-play traffic over backhaul connections, and showed the results to various teams from the Telefónica empire. He couldn't say, though, whether the tests would lead to any commercial arrangements.

In a prepared statement Enrique Algaba, a vice president at Telefónica I+D, noted that the carrier needs to check out "solutions that are innovative and cost-effective. Nortel's Ethernet-based PBT and PBB innovations have enabled us to test how service providers can use these technologies to maximize network efficiencies."

The tests were carried out last year as part of a pan-European networking test program under the Eureka framework, a collaborative test initiative that is funded ad hoc by European Union member states. Part of that program involves the testing of technologies that can help enhance services and reduce costs.

The cost issue is one of the main areas of contention surrounding PBT, or Provider Backbone Bridging-Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE) as it's known in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standards process. PBT's supporters claim the new flavor of Ethernet can help reduce a carrier's capital and operational costs, while Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) supporters dispute those claims vociferously. (See PBT Cost Claims Questioned and BT Counters PBT Claims.)

While it's still too early to tell exactly what sort of impact PBT might have on an in-service production network -- BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) should be the first to make any sort of meaningful assessment -– the heavy marketing surrounding PBT has attracted plenty of carrier attention and vendor support. (See Ciena Takes ANDA Into 21CN, BT Goes Live With PBT, BT Sells PBT-Based Backhaul Service, and PBT Means What?)

BT is already committed to the commercial deployment of PBT, and other big names -- such as NTT Group (NYSE: NTT), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE) -- are known to be interested in the technology, while vendors claim there are few Tier 1 operators that aren't scoping it out.

One of PBT's potential areas of application is in backhaul networks for mobile operators. Its applicability in that particular scenario is being shown this week at the MPLS & Ethernet World Congress in Paris, where test house European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) has set up a mobile backhaul interoperability showcase. (See EANTC Tests Mobile Backhaul and Ceragon Demos PBB-TE.)

EANTC's trial network has three backhaul networks –- one MPLS, one Transport MPLS (the connection-oriented version of MPLS), and one PBT –- feeding mobile traffic into an MPLS core.

The test house previously set up a multivendor carrier Ethernet and MPLS interoperability network in Berlin and Geneva last year. (See EANTC Preps MEF Demo and Vendors Clash Over PBT.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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