Cisco Systems Supports the Optical Backbone Networks Powering Europe's Broadband Revolution
January 31, 2005
By Jason Deign, News@Cisco
European dial-up Internet is on the wane. Last year, IDC predicted a nine percent fall in connections by 2007. Meanwhile, broadband is growing in dominance, spawning a new generation of service providers.
IDC's data suggests the number of consumer broadband connections in Western Europe will more than double in the next few years, from 18.7 million at the end of 2003 to almost 50 million by the close of 2007.
While much of this growth will undoubtedly come from DSLs provided by traditional telecommunications service providers, the high population density of many European cities has encouraged the emergence of a host of alternative operators.
These start-up service providers are free to use the latest converged network technologies, including many from Cisco Systems®, without concern for traditional infrastructure.
Their networks are based on a combination of optical fiber and Metro Ethernet, which delivers very high access bandwidths, carries any type of signal, provides clean transmission and offers customers a single broadband connection that can carry multiple services simultaneously.
For the customers of these companies, broadband is an entry-level service, not a step up from dial-up. And with typical connection speeds of around 10 Mbit/s, there is plenty of scope for the addition of other services such as voice or video over IP.
Cisco has been helping support the success of these broadband specialists for many years by helping enable the ongoing convergence of voice and data networks.
These are important tools in helping service providers carry both data and voice signals over the same network, allowing them to fully realize their investment existing voice-focused infrastructures to the end of their useful life-spans while progressively moving traffic over to IP.
The advantage of this is that existing time-division multiplexing (TDM) services can be maintained for customers at the same time as providing a smooth migration to packet-based services.
Initiatives to underpin the growth of this market, such as a joint working agreement with IBM, have meant Cisco technology has helped play a pivotal role in shaping the services of pioneering broadband companies including B2 and FastWeb.
Today, Cisco has a wide range of leading platforms designed to maximize the profitability and efficiency of optical broadband companies.
These include edge, metro and core multiservice optical solutions and a whole range of Metro Ethernet access services that was greatly enhanced last year.
In addition, as part of the complete portfolio Cisco provides a Cisco Transport Manager (CTM) that enables end-to-end management of the entire optical product portfolio, allowing service providers to provision new services quickly and easily from a single interface.
Cisco optical platforms form the lifeblood of some of Europe's most successful new-wave broadband service providers.
The Danish service provider Dansk Bredbaand, for example, is delivering voice, video and 10 Mbit/s broadband over an Ethernet network serving an initial 10,000 residents in Copenhagen and across Denmark, using the Cisco ONS 15454 Multiservice Transport Platform (MSTP).
The company, which trades as DBnet, is focused on providing Metro Ethernet-based services to residential subscribers and is working with housing associations and local governments to extend its regional city networks - initially in Næstved, Odense, Kolding and Esbjerg.
Kim Sonne, CEO of DBnet, says: "The DWDM capabilities of the Cisco multiservice optical platform help give us optimum scalable connectivity to provide multiple Gigabit Ethernet links between the locations in our network."
These Cisco Optical Networking System (ONS) platforms offer the flexibility to provide a range converged services.
In Italy, for example, the broadband provider Acantho started out offering metro Ethernet-to-the-Business switching in the Emilia-Romagna region but has added Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) transport for customers that wish to continue using private branch exchange (PBX) switches for now.
The move, enabled by integrating Cisco ONS 15302 Multiservice Customer Access Platforms into its network, helps provide a way for Acantho to deliver Ethernet-based connectivity over an SDH transport layer, while continuing to meet customer needs for traditional private branch exchange (PBX) voice traffic and other legacy applications over the same network.
This makes it possible for Acantho to extend its services to business customers with investments in traditional infrastructures, opening up new opportunities in markets such as the public sector.
"Cisco optical technology is helping us access one of today's market needs - namely, large organizations seeking to benefit from broadband services to connect their LAN traffic, alongside their existing PBX voice technology," says Angelo Marconi, chief technology officer at Acantho.
"By deploying Cisco equipment with Cisco IOS® Software, we can provide services to these specific customers today, with a defined growth path to evolve to IP telephony and video networking down the line."
While companies such as DBnet and Acantho are helping to change patterns of consumer Internet access across Europe, optical technologies are also having an impact elsewhere.
As an example, Centralschweizerische Kraftwerke, the regional power utility company serving the Swiss Canton of Lucerne, is reducing operational costs thanks to multiservice optical platforms (MSPPs) linking power stations and remote offices to its headquarters.
Jason Deign is a freelance journalist located in Barcelona, Spain.