AT&T Rolls Out ‘Smarter’ Optical Network

By Erin Joyce

AT&T has begun to roll out a beefed-up optical network that includes self-diagnostic intelligence and provisioning to help clients add and improve capacity on the fly.

The new network, including new “smart” switches and routers, is currently connected with over 40 cities around the country with live traffic now that months of testing within AT&T’s research divisions has wrapped and the technology has achieved certification.

The intelligent optical switch carries traffic at bit-rates ranging from 45 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps).

CIENA’s CoreDirector switches supply the self-diagnostic intelligence on the network. Each of the CoreDirector switches is programmed with a map of the entire network so that when failures or cut fiber hit, the programming can decide where else to route and restore circuits across a mesh backbone.

Another building block under the new network is Cisco’s ONS 15454 SONET Multi-service Platform (MSP), with its edge-vehicle function that aggregates lower-rate customer traffic up to high-speed (OC-48 or OC-192) pipes for routing across the network by the smart optical switches.

“The benefit for customers will be dramatically improved speed for provisioning” as the new technology becomes adopted in the marketplace, said Dave Johnson, spokesman for AT&T’s networking division, which guarantees 99.99 percent reliability.

With some network problems for example, technicians have to go out and manually re-route a problematic circuit and update that re-route work across all the nodes in the network, which can sometimes last for weeks.

Once customers have direct optical connectivity to AT&T’s network at both ends, and if they adopt the CoreDirector switches and MSP routers, the improvement in such work could go from an average of six to eight weeks to 50 or 60 milliseconds, Johnson said.

Added Dan Sheinbein, Vice President of AT&T Labs’ network architecture division: “This is not merely a vision statement nor a field trial, but rather a nationwide deployment of new technology that will significantly improve the capabilities we provide our business customers.”

The systems also leapfrog current Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) gear with bandwidth scalability that can automatically provision circuits at a variety of bit-rate speeds (from 1.5 Mbps to 10 Gbps, and Gigabit Ethernet).

AT&T said more than 100 of the Cisco router systems are deployed in the rollout, with significantly more planned for the future.

This new smart switches and multi-service platforms deployed in the network are also a chance for AT&T to showcase its interoperability features as it carries industrial strength private-line, Internet, voice, data, and video traffic.

“As we continue to roll out CoreDirector switches, the network footprint will expand to more cities where this kind of provisioning will be available,” Johnson said.

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