February 16, 2005

5 Min Read
Ethernet Looms Large at CompTel/ASCENT

By Paula Bernier

Ethernet is a hot topic at the show this week, with at least a handful of companies announcing new Ethernet-based services.

For example, Global Crossing this week formally launched a point-to-point LAN interconnection Ethernet IP service for wholesale and business customers. The service, which is not distance-sensitive, is positioned as a private-line alternative, but is up to 25 percent less expensive than a dedicated line. The company would not provide pricing information on the service, which runs over its MPLS backbone.

The service, which is Global Crossings first foray into Ethernet, includes SLAs on availability, packet delivery, latency and mean time to repair. Customers can opt to be billed for the service online. The company says it already has customers lined up.

In other Ethernet news this week out of CompTel/ASCENT, WilTel Communications introduced a wholesale version of its Managed EWAN service, which lets carriers provide their customers with a fully managed, end-to-end, nationwide transparent LAN.

The solution is highly scalable, offering fast Ethernet and gigabit Ethernet interfaces. WilTel-deployed and managed equipment from Overture Networks on the customer premises with native Ethernet interfaces can support Ethernet circuits up to 1gbps in flexible 1mbps increments.

The solution also provides customers direct Ethernet access to WilTel’s dedicated Internet access and MPLS IP VPN services, enabling a cost-effective means of aggregating numerous services over one access facility.

Managed EWAN lets carriers provide their customers with efficient, multipoint configurations, including point-to-point Ethernet (E-Line) and multipoint Ethernet (E-LAN). Because Managed EWAN is an extension of WilTel’s EWAN service, it interworks with legacy frame relay and ATM protocols.

"The lack of cost-effective, feature-rich, end-to-end wide-area transparent LAN services has hindered enterprise IT managers from reaping the benefits of Ethernet in network solutions outside the LAN," says Tony Tomae, senior vice president of marketing for WilTel. "WilTel’s Managed EWAN addresses that issue by offering enterprises a protocol-agnostic, completely managed Ethernet solution with a variety of flexible pricing options. The solution simplifies enterprise network management because anyone who could manage their company’s Ethernet LAN can now also manage their WAN."

Also this week, BellSouth Corp. came out with two new wholesale Ethernet offerings a metro Ethernet service and an Ethernet over SONET transport service.

The services actually became available on a wholesale basis back in December, says Nancy D. Starcher, director of product marketing, access transport at BellSouth Interconnection Services. The company also offers best-effort Ethernet services and began selling gigE over SONET services about a year ago, says Jason Cook, product manager of BellSouth Interconnection Services. Around the end of the year, the company also plans to offer VLAN services, he says.

Weve been looking at several different ways to deliver Ethernet, says Cook, who adds the company has seen a huge interest in Ethernet.

In the third quarter, BellSouth also plans to integrate its metro Ethernet and Ethernet over SONET services to provide its wholesale customers with end-to-end solutions, Cook says.

BellSouth has fiber into about 80 percent of the buildings for which RFPs have requested Ethernet services to date.

And Broadwing Communications LLC this week divulged that in June it will introduce new Layer 2 and Layer 3 MPLS solutions. Both will be based on the Tellabs 8860 Managed Service Switch Router, which does switching and routing in one chassis and with one network management system.

While several other service providers, including AT&T Corp., have been offering MPLS-based Layer 3 solutions for some time, Jamey Heinze, Broadwings director of product management for data services, told the CompTel Show Daily in a Jan. 21 interview that Broadwing stands alone in providing an MPLS solution supporting both Layer 2 and Layer 3 services.

Layer 3, or routed, VPNs handle IP applications only and require managed routing for each customer. Layer 2, or switched, VPLS supports any protocol over the MPLS backbone and provides customers a higher level of security, according to Heinze, because they to manage their own routing tables. A Layer 2 VPN creates a big local area network, so the customer can run their WAN like they run their LAN today, Heinze continues. It looks like a large bridged Ethernet topology.

Customers can attach to either the Layer 2 or Layer 3 service options via a variety of connections including Ethernet, private line, ATM or frame relay.

We can do point-to-point and any-to-any WANs, Heinze says. The MPLS solution enables new applications like unified messaging and VoIP.

Broadwing will offer four quality of service levels for its MPLS services. That will include a standard/best effort level; a standard data rate, which is a committed information rate for a certain port; a priority data option, which Heinze says is akin to an ATMs virtual bit rate; and the highest level of service is called voice. This is true QoS support, Heinze says. The way Tellabs addresses QoS is really fantastic. Theyve taken the best of ATM algorithms and applied them to MPLS.

Heinze was not ready to provide pricing information during an interview in January, but said pricing will start at fractional T1. The customer will buy a port speed and get full bandwidth at best effort up to that port speed and buy premium traffic handling on top in kilobit or megabit increments.

As a footnote, Heinze adds that Ethernet has long been touted in the United States as the next great thing. But carriers in Asia are much further along in Ethernet and VPLS, he says. We just had Broadwing at PTC [05 event Jan. 16 through 19 in Hawaii] and had three Asian carriers saying Were so excited youre doing VPLS, we are dying to have a partner to do VPLS with and we have no one to connect to in the U.S.

Meanwhile, XO Communications told the CompTel/ASCENT Show Daily it is doing beta tests of Ethernet over copper equipment from Hatteras Networks with a small number of wholesale carrier customers. If all goes well with the trials, XO Communications could come out with Ethernet over copper-based VDSL services later this year, says Ernie Ortega, president of carrier services at XO. The new copper-based Ethernet services would enable XO to reach wholesale and commercial customers with lower data rate services. VDSL tops out at 10mbps, says Ortega. XO already offers fiber-based 10mbps and higher services in its core cities.

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