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802.17 Group Closes in on Brass 'Ring'

SAN FRANCISCO -- An Internet industry group working toward speeding up data transmissions in Local, Metro and Wide Area Networks Wednesday said it has cleared a major hurdle in approving the protocol as a standard.

The IEEE 802.17 Working Group approved draft 2.3 of the Resilient Packet Ring (RPR) Working Ballot during its meeting here this week. The proposed standard defines the method of the transfer of data packets at speeds of "many gigabits per second." The new standard would use existing Physical Layer specifications and will develop new PHYs where appropriate.

As a general practice, fiber optic rings are widely used in Metropolitan and Wide Area Networks . These rings are currently using protocols that critics say are neither optimized nor scalable to the demands of packet networks, including speed of deployment, bandwidth allocation and throughput, resiliency to faults, and reduced equipment and operational costs.

The Resilient Packet Ring Alliance, an industry advocacy group, which has been trying to educate the networking industry, says RPR as a good alternative to SONET /SDH networks as a method for adding data services.

"As the telecom industry begins to gear up again after the market slump, carriers are increasingly looking to standardized RPR as a cost-effective solution to deliver carrier-class voice, data, and video over existing SONET/SDH rings," said RPR Alliance chair and Nortel Networks John Hawkins. "This step forward allows carriers to have full confidence in standardized RPR as option for delivering metro services."

In addition to Nortel, the Alliance's inner circle consists of Cisco Systems and Corrigent Systems. Alliance Semiconductor, ARRIS, Cortina Systems, Infineon Technologies, Intel, Ixia, and Lantern Communications make up the rest of the participating members.

"With the standard moving closer to finalization, we're seeing more and more vendors developing standard-compliant silicon, systems, and test equipment," RPR Alliance vice president of marketing and Cisco product manager Martin Green said. "The pace of RPR product development will only increase as we get close to the completion of the IEEE standard and move to interoperability testing."

Back in May, the Alliance presented a business case study using a comparison of RPR and SONET/SDH as an example of how to address the challenges of carriers from initial installation to rolling out next generation metro services-video, voice, and data.

The study found that carriers could save one CapEx and OpEx spending as networks expand in both in terms of number of users on the network and increased bandwidth per user.

"Bottom line, whether carriers choose to implement a greenfield RPR network or deploy RPR over an existing infrastructure, RPR makes a lot of sense from both a technical and a business standpoint," Hawkins said.

The 802.17 Working Group said it will now address comments made against that draft before advancing draft 2.4 for further consideration. That decision may come as early as September 2003.