Fiber-optic Produces Eye-popping Net Access

BALTIMORE (03/10/2000) - How about this for a deal: 100M bit/sec Internet access for $1,000 per month?

That is less than the price most people pay for 1.5M bit/sec T-1 access to the Internet, yet it's just the service Cogent Communications will sell to office-building tenants in major cities.

Cogent's network links will be built exclusively from optical fiber, including the access connections to customer sites.

The announcement came at the OFC 2000 optical fiber conference this week. And there were more signs at the conference that optical bandwidth in the local loop will make possible other new, inexpensive, high-speed, high-availability services for enterprises:l Tellium and Avici demonstrated that their equipment could set up and drop optical bandwidth to deal with network congestion without human intervention.l Kestral announced technology that increases the effective throughput on OC-48 links, making more bandwidth available on single-wavelength fibers.

"This gives the promise that service providers will offer high-speed, low-cost services such as transparent Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet services," says Christopher Nicoll, an analyst with Current Analysis in Sterling, Va. "You'll be able to connect Gigabit Ethernet LANs among sites without having to force the traffic onto OC-3s [155M bit/sec links]."

The gear in Cogent's network is so efficient and inexpensive compared to traditional copper networks that the company can afford its startling $1,000-per-month 100M bit/sec service. In fact, it is the only service the company will sell, and it will still bring in enough revenue to pay off investors, Cogent says.

Cisco is building the network for Cogent using Cisco equipment and fiber from Metromedia Fiber Networks and undisclosed long-haul fiber providers.

Customers will plug a Fast Ethernet port on their WAN routers in to the building's Category 5 wiring, which is linked to a Cisco ONS 15454 concentrator in the basement. The ONS 15454 connects to an OC-48 optical fiber line that is part of Cogent's network.

Customer traffic is carried across Cogent's network at a guaranteed 100M bit/sec to the Cogent point of presence nearest the Web servers customers are seeking.

The service will be available in New York in September and will roll out in 13 other cities over the following 16 months.

Other vendors at the OFC conference revealed technology that will enable similar types of services.

For example, Kestral's Talon MX 10G bit/sec optical add-drop multiplexer for metropolitan networks boosts fiber throughput using optical frequency division multiplexing to cram more data onto each wavelength. That will make it less expensive for service providers to add more customers to existing fibers, keeping service prices down.

Tellium and Avici demonstrated that customers will be able to buy burstable optical bandwidth. If the wavelengths they buy fill up, the switches and routers on the network can provision more so customers can rely on network performance.

In the demonstration, Tellium's Aurora 32 Optical Switch turned up an extra OC-48 connection in response to congestion alarms triggered by Avici's Terabit Switch Router.

"At the end of the year, we will see services built around this new equipment," Nicoll says.

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