Ethernet over bonded copper is a relatively new kid on the Carrier Ethernet block, but one to which considerable expectations are attached. Following the ratification in mid-2004 by the IEEE of a new amendment to the 802.3ah Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) standard, this Ethernet-over-copper technology - widely dubbed mid-band Ethernet - appears in two flavors.
The asymmetric/symmetric 10Pass-TS flavor is based on VDSL, and the 2Base-TL symmetric service is based on the same physical layer as Enhanced SHDSL. 10Pass-TS can offer asymmetric rates of around 100Mbps, and 50 Mbps symmetric. In principle, 2Base-TL provides nominal symmetric data rates of 2.3Mbps over 2,700 to 3,600 meters and 5.7Mbps over shorter distances, with the standard defining a multi-pair bonding scheme that enables eight pairs to deliver 45Mbps over short distance and up to 20Mbps over a typical carrier serving area. In effect the two pairs that deliver 2Mbps for an E1 connection in principle can now deliver 11.4Mbps.
Mid-band Ethernet is being marketed as a solution for small- and medium-sized businesses that have outgrown their E1/T1 facilities but don't need very large capacities at which conventional Metro Ethernet services typically start. As such it's hailed a precursor to, and sometimes substitute for, fiber network rollouts.
This pitch exploits the circumstance that fiber is still a minority sport: as of last year, only around 10% of European enterprises and 13% of their US counterparts, had been glassed up. Aside from delivery of real Ethernet services to SMBs, other applications for mid-band Ethernet include cellular, DSLAM, and fixed and meshed wireless network backhaul.
US carrier BellSouth (now part of AT&T) has become a large-scale pioneer of mid-band Ethernet using solutions supplied by Hatteras Networks. Other service providers considering the new technology include BT, COLT, Easynet, Finnish data group Finnet, Hungary's T-Com, Norway's Telenor, and CenturyTel, and US-based TDS Telecom and XO Communications.
Three new recruits in February signed up to the mid-band Ethernet service provider roster. US broadband provider InfoHighway Communications introduced Metro Ethernet services using Actelis' solutions. US business grade IP service provider Telekenex announced it was deploying an end-to-end system jointly supplied by Hatteras and Cisco Systems. And Australia's PowerTel, a provider of infrastructure-based data, voice and Internet services to corporate and wholesale markets, said it would roll out Hatteras mid-band Ethernet services offering 2 to 40Mbps symmetrical Ethernet over copper throughout Australia.
'Business customers connected to the copper network are a huge opportunity for PowerTel, and our mid-band Ethernet service offering provides a compelling upgrade to legacy E1 services,' said PowerTel managing director Paul Broad. 'PowerTel's enterprise customers will no longer have to wait for fiber to get high-performance, high-value Ethernet services. With Hatteras Networks equipment, we can extend the Ethernet service edge of our network to all businesses today.'
All of which looks and sounds pretty much like Ethernet is rapidly acquiring another string to its already multi-stringed carrier bow. Ethernet is already in the MAN, the WAN, the local loop and in the Wi-Fi hotspot sector. Next stop‾ Perhaps the world.
Faster and more scalable