Nortel: 100G Now a Reality

The promise of 100-gigabit-per-second (100G) networks is no longer just a promise: It’s a deployed, in-production reality. Nortel and Verizon today jointly announced the deployment of a commercial 100G network between Paris and Frankfurt.

The new link marks the commercial availability of 100G from Nortel and the production use debut of 100G in a live network. The technical and business milestone comes at challenging time for Nortel, which has been under bankruptcy protection since January. The company’s Metro Networking unit which produces the 100G solution, is set to be acquired by Ciena for $769 million.

“It’s not every day we have a one-two punch, with the first commercially available 100G and then a customer the size of Verizon that goes out and launches with us,” Mike Adams, portfolio strategy and marketing leader at Nortel, told “We’re very excited — over the moon, in fact. This has taken years of work to accomplish.”

Prior to the deployment of 100G, the biggest bandwidth available from Nortel and the industry as a whole has been 40 Gbps with the OC-768 standard. The new Nortel 100 G solution uses the new ODU-4 optical standard to leverage existing 10 gigabit-per-second (10G) equipment to deliver a so-called 10x10G solution.

“On the line transmitter side, it’s a 10x10G client multiplexed into a single 100G channel for transmission over a line,” Adams explained.

On the client side, Nortel is also working on solutions that leverage the emerging 100-Gigabit Ethernet (100 GbE) standard, which is set to be finalized in mid-2010. Nortel has been working on 100 GbE technology since at least December 2008. The difference with the client-side 100 GbE technology is that it will enable a single, 100 GbE interface to create the 100G transmission instead of a 10x10G interface .

Adams added that Nortel is still working on the 100 GbE interface technology and it expects to have future announcements on it as the specification matures.

100G has been demoed in test cases as far back as June 2008, when optical networking vendor Infinera demoed its 100GbE technology at the NXTcomm trade show, showcasing a route going from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Alcatel-Lucent and Juniper Networks have also both separately announced their plans to have 100 GbE equipment availability at some point in 2010.

For Nortel, Adams said a key benefit is that the 100G solution can be deployed in a “plug-and-play” approach over a service provider’s existing 10G or 40G network.

“We simply upgraded the software release on the existing [Nortel Optical Multiservice Edge 6500], added in two new 10x10G 100G line cards, and it’s up and working at Verizon, completed uncompensated from Paris to Frankfurt with no other additions of amplifiers or regenerators,” Adams said.
The OME 6500 with 100G cards installed.

The net effect of having the 100G technology is that carriers can potentially recognize a ten-fold expansion in the amount of available bandwidth on existing fiber. Adams noted that with the solution, 88 channels of 100G are now possible within a single C band on a single piece of fiber.

Adams added that he sees the 100G solution as a cost-effective one that should make economic sense to service providers.

“We absolutely see 100G as being economically viable,” Adams said. “There are a lot of considerations as you deploy, but this is not a ‘hero deployment,’ this is not one of one but one of thousands of wavelengths that could be deployed in the next little while.”

With the pending acquisition of Nortel’s optical and metro networking assets by Ciena, Adams also said he sees the his group’s win of Verizon as a client as good news for the group.

“At the end of the day, when the deal is done, this as much a win for Ciena as it is for Nortel’s optical division,” Adams said. “Gaining a 100G win with a company like Verizon … is a great win for Ciena as well.”

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