There appears to be an increasing trend by large ISPs to use IP over Fibre in the core backbone, by-passing ATM and even SONET.
The Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF), co-founded by Cisco and Ciena, is focusing on the development and standardisation of technologies for direct connection of IP network systems to DWDM with the same reliability as Sonet/SDH rings, without the overhead of ATM and the legacy of the DS0 hierarchy for Sonet/SDH.
US-based cable modem company @Home Network announced it is creating a new national Internet Protocol (IP) backbone network using leased fibre-optic capacity from AT&T Corp. The company will fire up portions of the network in April and plans to have full availability in August.
The new backbone will have 100 times the capacity of its existing 45Mb/s network, which operates over leased ATM circuits from Sprint Corp. @Home says its dual OC-48 network will scale to serve up to 5 million cable modem subscribers and better meet the needs of large commercial customers.
Rather than transporting IP traffic with conventional ATM or SONET solutions, @Home plans to run IP directly over AT&T’s dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) fibre links. The strategy maximises raw fibre bandwidth utilisation while eliminating the need for costly SONET and ATM gear – a saving of as much as 80% to 90%.
@Home is not alone in this strategy. In August 1998, ISPs Sprint Corp. and Frontier Corp. announced plans to create their own national OC-48 IP-over-DWDM backbone networks.
AT&T will become @Home’s largest shareholder upon the completion of its acquisition of Tele-Communications Inc in 1999. With its aggressive backbone upgrade using AT&T facilities, @Home hopes to position itself as a conduit for AT&T to deliver integrated IP data, voice and video services via TCI cable systems, and potentially those of other @Home affiliates, such as Cablevision Systems, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc.
Additionally, AT&T is now having discussions with Time Warner about delivering IP and/or circuit-switched telephone services over its cable systems. If such a deal occurs, @Home could be tapped to provide IP backbone support for Road Runner, the broadband Internet venture controlled by Time Warner, MediaOne, Microsoft and Compaq.
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