Level 3 Upgrades Fiber Network

Level 3 Communications Inc.’s long-haul
data network lines are getting an upgrade with third-generation fiber
optics from Corning Inc.

The next-generation LEAF fiber-optic cable, not available until early 2001,
reduces signal loss when carried over a long distance. Level 3 officials expect the upgrade to improve performance more than
50 percent over the second generation LEAF fiber, on the market since
October 1999.

The letter of intent signed with Corning gives Level 3 two
million kilometers of cable, with an option for more. Installation is
expected to begin when the cable is available commercially in the first
quarter 2001.

Kevin O’Hara, Level 3 president and chief operating officer, said customer
demand – not technology – is the main reason for the company’s continuous
upgrade projects.

“This decision is driven not only by improving technology but by customer
demand,” O’Hara said. “Our unique multi-conduit network allows both us and
our customers to take advantage of ongoing improvements in optical fiber
technology. This upgradable network design enables rapid responses to
changes in the marketplace and allows Level 3 to deploy new fiber
technologies with unprecedented and unequaled speed.”

According to Level 3 spokesperson Arthur Hodges, Level 3’s 12-conduit
network that spreads from Seattle to Boston and parts in between lets the
company upgrade its network in the length of time it takes to string fiber
from one city to another.

For every one percent of improvement in technology there is a significant
level of demand, Hodges said, and if you can’t adjust or upgrade your
services to fit that demand you’re going to lose out.

LEAF fiber for long-distance network connections came about as demand for
high-speed Internet access increased. To meet the demand, broadband
providers started fishing around for companies.

The general consensus seems to have fallen to Corning and its LEAF series
of fiber. Now in its second generation, the fiber optics got its start in
February 1998. Since then, companies like AT&T , Williams Communications
Group, Inc.
, 360
Networks
and Carrier 1 International have signed on and use the product for its long-distance fiber
optic cabling. The other companies have yet to sign on for the third
generation fiber.

Alan Eusden, Corning optical fiber vice president and general manager, said
the latest generation of fiber gives these companies the edge in high-speed
Internet performance.

“The new generation of LEAF fiber will offer a polarization mode dispersion
specification that will be improved by 50 percent over the previous
version,” Eusden said. “The resulting fiber performance will enable Level
3 to significantly increase the transmission distance and data rates of
their long haul network, while reducing the need for PMD compensation or
signal regeneration.”

Lines with a using 40 gigabits of capacity or more are prone to signal
loss, or PMD. Each LEAF generation cuts down on the signal loss
experienced on long-distance transmissions.

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