For the past five years 100G transport has been on the wish list of major network operators, and during this time we’ve seen, first, field trials and, over the last two years, actual commercial deployments in the Americas, Europe and Asia. To date, these deployments have been limited to specific network routes and not on a large scale basis, mostly because carriers want to deploy 100G on specific routes where traffic is growing the fastest. But no one, at least until now, has gone 100G nationwide.
Today, XO Communications made a major statement in the 100G “arms race”, announcing that we are the first service provider to deploy 100G network technology nationwide. This is a major milestone for XO as we demonstrate the growing size of our network vis-à-vis the industry. No other carrier has deployed 100G on the scale that XO has. To do this, we have deployed the Nokia Siemens Networks’ DWDM network system based on their hiT 7300 platform. This system is capable of simultaneously transmitting up to 96 wavelengths of light, each carrying data at 100 Gbps and allowing a total data transfer speed of up to 9.6 Terabits per second.
It’s unavoidable that service providers with large networks are going to deploy 100G at some time. The question is when. For XO, the answer is now. 100G is critical for us for several reasons. First, traffic across our network is growing at such a rate that we need systems that can move more data. Also, it’s easier and more cost effective to manage and move more data when you have fewer moving parts in the network. 100G channel speeds simply present better economics for network operators and reduces their operational burden. Lastly, we already have some very large customers that are asking for 100 Gbps client services, such as intercity and metro wavelength service as well as 100GE IP transit services. So, the drivers for 100G are not just to help us better manage our own network traffic, but also because there is actual demand for 100 Gbps services.
The non-stop growth of network traffic from things like mobile wireless data, Internet video and cloud-based services is putting tremendous stress on networks in the core, the metro and the last mile. Mobile devices, smarts pads and other Internet connected devices have made it much easier for consumers to access more and more content, such as videos and social media over the Internet whenever and wherever they want. It’s been said that the average U.S. home has seven Internet connected devices, and that by 2015 this number could go up to 15. In my home, for example, we have three iPads, four smartphones, a combination of four TVs, DVRs and game consoles with Internet connectivity, three desktop PCs, and five laptop PCs. There are just more and more ways for us to consume bandwidth, and most people are multi-tasking on multiple Internet-connected devices at the same time. You’ve probably seen your kids watching a movie on Netflix on one device, surfing the web on their laptop and then texting all at the same time.
So, with 100G capabilities now gaining traction in many carrier networks, is it premature to start talking about 400G and even 1Tbit/second? Not at all: the time frame between the first 10G deployments and 40G deployments was about eight years. The timeframe between the first 40 Gbps and 100G deployments was about four years. So, do the math: 400G and 1T channel speeds will be here sooner than you think, and necessarily so. In the meantime, XO is pressing ahead with its 100G services.