Migrating SONET/SDH to Carrier Ethernet - Hurry While Supplies Last

12 May 2009

Migration from SONET/SDH to Carrier Ethernet technology in the RAN for backhaul offers many benefits for mobile service providers and their customers:

- Save money in the near and long term using packet instead of circuit-switched connections
- Simplify network operations
- Scale to meet the rising onslaught of mobile Internet demand

Save Money
Transmission costs account for approximately 19 percent of the overall cost of delivering data in today\'s 2G and 3G networks, according to 2007 estimates by Unstrung Insider. Backhaul architectures based on leased lines can increase this cost to nearly 80 percent of operating expenses. By migrating from SONET/SDH to Carrier Ethernet technology in the RAN, mobile service providers can save between 25 to 40 percent in backhaul costs over a five-year period while increasing speeds up to 10 Gbps.

Table 1. Analysis of Mobile Operator with Different RAN Backhaul Solutions

RAN Backhaul Total Cost of Ownership*
SONET/SDH $102,364,495
All-Ethernet solution where traffic from the base station is encapsulated within pseudowires and transported across the IP/MPLS core $64,048,061
All-Ethernet solution where pseudowires extend to the cell site and transport traffic across the IP/MPLS core $39,583,089

*Capital and operational costs are amortized over the lifetime of a project and expressed as a total cost of ownership amount.

Circuit-switched SONET/SDH technology is much more expensive per bit than Ethernet. Also, with circuit-switched voice, the line is transmitting all the time, whether or not calls are in progress. With voice over IP networks, the line is only used when words are spoken. With Carrier Ethernet, providers pay a per-port cost monthly and only for actual traffic. This contrasts with T1 or E1 lines that require set monthly fees for bandwidth that is always on, whether or not it is fully used.

Simplify Operations Administration and Maintenance (OAM)
With SONET/SDH, increasing the speed of even one ring from STM1 to STM4 could adversely affect the other rings. With Carrier Ethernet services and IP RAN, increasing rates in modest increments will not impact different network layers.

IP RAN simplifies optical network planning and deployment, makes for faster and easier changes to traffic and network topology, and saves significant costs related to Layer 2 and Layer 3 equipment required for ring interconnection.

By redesigning the RAN to provide packet transport end-to-end, mobile service providers can eliminate an extra ATM layer, further reducing network cost and complexity. And as voice traffic migrates to IP transport based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), IP/MPLS technology makes it easier to provision, scale, and manage these services.

Scale to meet consumer Mobile Internet demand
The popularity of email, Internet and intranet access, and video sharing on mobile devices is putting pressure on the existing circuit-switched RAN infrastructures. Cisco has found that several mobile service providers see data traffic comprising 30 percent of all traffic in 2008 and expect it to be 50 percent of their traffic by 2010. These same providers anticipate needing to provide 25 Mbps of bandwidth for urban mobile customers by 2010.

Time is of the essence - a delay in RAN migration not only incurs unnecessary operations cost, but also leaves the network susceptible to failure in meeting customer expectations for reliable mobile Internet services.

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