AT&T upgrades entire backbone network to 40Gbps

IP/MPLS backbone covers more than 80,000 fiber-optic wavelength miles

AT&T this week completed transitioning its IP traffic to a consolidated IP/MPLS backbone by deploying 40Gbps Ethernet technology over its entire U.S. ultra-long haul network.

AT&T has deployed the OC-768 variant of Optical Carrier technology, which currently provides the fastest available speeds for SONET platforms at 40Gbps and which employs dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) to transport several data channels across a single optical fiber. The 40Gbps IP/MPLS backbone is the base for all of the company's Web services, including consumer broadband, wireless data services and enterprise applications. The MPLS backbone, which AT&T first started upgrading to 40Gbps in the summer of 2006, now covers more than 80,000 fiber-optic wavelength miles.

"The AT&T IP/MPLS backbone network is what enables all of that information to move across the country and across the globe," said AT&T CTO John Donovan in a statement. "AT&T has invested billions in the research, development and deployment of advanced technologies to ensure that we're able to stay ahead of our customers' demand for Internet and IP applications."

The company says the new IP/MPLS backbone will also provide a "streamlined path" to future technologies such as 100Gbps Ethernet. Researchers at AT&T Labs have been working with both NEC and Corning recently to conduct test transmissions at speeds of 100Gbps and above, carrying a total capacity of 17Tbps over a single strand of optic fiber.

100Gbps networks are seen by many as a logical progression from the current standard of 10G Ethernet. In 2006, the IEEE's Higher Speed Study Group (HSSG) voted to pursue 100G Ethernet as its next major Ethernet standard. The HSSG said last summer that it was aiming to have a single standard developed that covered both 40G and 100G speeds by 2010, marking the first time that an Ethernet standards group had agreed to create one standard for two different speeds.

Earlier this year, AT&T rival Verizon announced that it was going to start deploying 100Gbps technology over its major networking routes in 2009.

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