100 Gbps Hits Rapid-Fire Rollout

Brian Washburn
Brian Washburn

Summary Bullets:

  • 100 Gbps wavelength deployments were pushed back repeatedly.  However, providers are now in full swing, lighting 100 Gbps coherent wavelength services for commercial and wholesale clients.
  • The new 100 Gbps speeds benefit some situations, but they are not yet cheaper than buying a fistful of 10 Gbps waves.

The first major trials for 100 Gbps wavelength services started in 2009, and the hype began gathering steam in 2010.  While some providers took an interim step and supported 40 Gbps, industry consensus seemed to be that 100 Gbps would be out in time to make 40G waves obsolete.  It took two years longer than some expected, but 100 Gbps long-haul wavelengths services are now being lit.  Most adopters are lighting the higher speeds for their own internal use, but a few are also offering the option for wholesale and content customers.

— In August 2012, XO Communications claimed to be the first U.S. carrier to announce a national long-haul 100 Gbps fabric.  The company used Nokia Siemens Networks gear to light its network and made 100 Gbps wavelengths available for sale.

— Level 3 Communications noted in September 2012 that it had lit a customer’s private network with 15,000 route-miles of 100 Gbps wavelength service.  Level 3 also noted that it was in the process of turning up additional customers with 100 Gbps wavelengths.

— TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC) turned up 100 Gbps regional networks in both Europe and the U.S., using Nokia Siemens Networks gear in the former and Infinera gear for the latter.

— CenturyLink is deploying 100 Gbps infrastructure nationwide, adding Infinera’s new DTN-X platform to its existing, similarly capable Alcatel-Lucent transport gear.

— COLT is deploying 100 Gbps-capable Infinera gear across Europe.

— Cable&Wireless Worldwide, NTT, PLDT, Telefónica, Verizon, and Vodafone are among those that have deployed 100 Gbps along key routes for some of their commercial infrastructure.

— Many more providers have announced hardware buys, including Angola’s Unitel, Grupo Televisa’s Cablevision Mexico, Russia’s Vimpelcom, Reliance Globalcom, and Dakota Carrier Network; it is not clear in each case whether these carriers have lit commercial 100 Gbps services.

— Various submarine cable projects currently underway have also committed to 100 Gbps wavelengths once the systems are ready for service.

Economically, 100 Gbps transport gear is still costly.  It is still cheaper to light ten 10 Gbps wavelengths than a single 100 Gbps wave.  However, for routes where it costs a half-billion dollars to lay a cable that has a limited fiber count (e.g., submarine cables), the economics already make sense.  100 Gbps gear also may already make sense for building complex networks that require high-performance, full 10 Gbps port interfaces connecting many end locations – at least for those companies that, unlike AT&T or Verizon in the U.S., have not already deployed a 40 Gbps national backbone to do the job.

It might be another year or two before falling 100 Gbps hardware costs drop lower than ten times the cost of 10 Gbps hardware, but sourcing gear is just one piece of a network provider’s total operating cost.  Those providers do not want to be caught flat-footed as their customers’ bandwidth appetites grow.  That is one reason why many have already decided that it makes more sense to start deploying 100 Gbps services now, expecting to benefit from falling 100 Gbps costs at some point in the future.

What do you think?

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