NGN ain't nothing but a fancy acronym

John C. Tanner
23 Oct 2009

And now, six (6) things I learned at Optical Transmission Vision APAC in Singapore this week:

1. NGN ain’t nothing but a fancy acronym.

So said Diarmid Massey, VP of international carrier services worldwide at Cable & Wireless. “I’m a cynic when it comes to NGN. A hundred years ago, that used to mean undersea telegraph cables. Twenty years from now it’ll be some other technology. It’s really just a buzzword for vendors to get you to buy things.”

Massey also remarked on how the carrier business has morphed from a largely vertical business to a more horizontal one. “It used to be that SingTel, or BT or whoever, that built everything, designed their own services and sold them to you. Now it’s physically impossible to do everything end to end by yourself. Collaboration is the only way to do it.”

2. The subsea game is about diversity, not size.

Simon Cooper of Tata Communications remarked that planning for capacity is no longer a matter of assuming that your network will be bearing the burden of projected data traffic growth. “When you’re deciding how much new capacity you need to build – should I do two fiber pairs? Four? Six? – we’ve found it’s better to invest small and rely on technology advances to deal with capacity growth, and admit that we’re not going to be carrying all the traffic. Diversity is what’s going to win the day.”

3. Asia is on an optical network (ON) spending spree.

And it’s primarily thanks to mobile networks, said Ovum analyst Matt Walker, who noted that Asia-Pac is on track to record 30% growth in ON spending this year. China and India are the marquee markets, while aggregation gear has accounted for almost 60% of ON spend in the last four quarters as cellcos beef up their backhaul.

Meanwhile, ROADM and 40G are driving the WDM segment to new heights, but beware the hype on 100G, Walker says: “Until we know what the transponder costs of 100G will be, it’s impossible to gauge its likely life cycle.” But he did add that when 100G is ready to go, expect even faster adoption than the current migration from 10G to 40G.

4. Packet-optical integration will save you a ton of money.

Luc Ceuppens, marketing VP of high-end systems for Juniper Networks, made a case for integrating packet networks and optical networks, saying it will reduce cost-per-bit, power consumption and rack space. He added that how much you save will depend on whether the packet-optical solution comes from a vendor that specializes more in packets or in optics and added the other component into its mix.

Ceuppens also presented a basic cost model which indicated that a packet-centric integration solution (i.e. MPLS-based with OTN switching) would cost 65% less than a traditional optical network, while an optical-centric solution (i.e. hybrid router and MPLS/OTN switching) would only save just under 50%.

No prizes for guessing which solution Juniper supports.

5. IP-DWDM is the preferred mobile backhaul technology of Dialog.

Viraj Devapriya, senior GM of engineering for Sri Lanka’s Dialog Global, made a case for IP-over-DWDM as a suitable upgrade path for its backhaul network compared to IP-over-fiber and IP-over-SDH with ASON.

“IP-over-fiber is good for small networks, but it doesn’t support mesh, and IP-over-SDH provides good protection but the granularities aren’t efficient enough,” he said.

IP-over-DWDM has none of those problems, and while it is somewhat more costly initially, he added, “when you load it, you can increase capacity at marginal cost.”

6. Don’t forget microwave

Ericsson went to the trouble of setting up a demo booth for its Mini-Link microwave backhaul solution, which supports both native TDM and native Ethernet, giving cellcos the ability to upgrade their microwave backhaul at their own pace as market demands dictate.

Why tout microwave at an optical show? “Because 60% of base station sites use microwave backhaul, and that is unlikely to change because they’re in areas where fiber isn’t going to be deployed anytime soon,” said Eliabet Mahler, Ericsson’s mobile backhaul program manager for IP broadband networks.

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