MCI successfully sent IP packets from San Francisco to San Jose at 40G bit/sec in what it claims is the fastest IP transmission ever.
MCI's 40-gig trial was conducted at the end of last month using the latest routers from Cisco and transponders from StrataLight. The field trial lasted two weeks and was funded by the three companies involved.
"The objectives were to validate that we could, in fact, operate a 40G connection across our optical network and that we could do IP networking at line rates," says Jack Wimmer, MCI vice president of Network Architecture and Advanced Technology. "Both were successful."
Among the applications that MCI sent over the 40G link were HDTV-quality video conferencing, gaming and music downloads. In contrast, the fastest speeds used today by top-tier ISPs are 10G bit/sec.
MCI has no immediate plans to introduce a commercial 40G service in the U.S. or elsewhere. Only a handful of customers including government and university researchers would require such high speeds, MCI says. Instead, 40G service is more likely to find its way onto the backbone of MCI's network, where it can be used to consolidate traffic coming from many sources.
"The real driver behind 40G is network convergence," Wimmer says. "If you look to the future, the kinds of things that are emerging like storage networks, content delivery networks and grid computing are all packet services. The idea is that all of these [applications] need to be consolidated and aggregated on a common IP network."
MCI views the 40G trial as part of a broader effort to prepare its backbone network for the future of converged IP services.
In February, MCI announced that it had embarked on a plan to upgrade and simplify its backbone by deploying what it calls an ultra long-haul transmission overlay in the U.S. This overlay allows MCI to increase by four times the distance between the optical networking gear it uses to send signals over the network.
The overlay "allows us to go into our network and do a lot of consolidation," Wimmer explains. "In a lot of places, we have parallel and duplicate fiber and equipment from MCI and WorldCom. We can remove a lot of those network elements and physical repeater sites for significant operational savings."
Wimmer says this deployment will take between three to five years. At the same time, MCI is deploying the ultra long-haul transmission overlay and preparing its network for 40G service.
"Our next step will be to do 40G over ultra long-haul distance," Wimmer says. "We'll be doing that this year for sure."