Where are the copper-based metro Ethernet services?

* A status report of Ethernet in the first/last mile

Earlier this month, we discussed the fact that while metro Ethernet network services hold much promise as a low-cost, operationally simple option for multimegabit-speed LAN-to-LAN connections, the services are relatively scarce today. This is because fiber in the last mile is not accessible to about 90% of commercial sites, according to researcher Vertical Systems Group.

So then, what about the copper-based fiber-extension alternatives we hear so much about? There is an emerging IEEE 802.13ah standard for so-called Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM), for example. It includes a set of copper specifications that leverage very high-speed DSL (VDSL) technology, which should eventually make Ethernet-like metro-area services more widely available. The specification is for point-to-point copper connections at speeds of 10M bit/sec across distances of at least 750 meters. Final standard ratification should be completed by July 2004, though the standard is now stable enough for vendors to begin building products based on it, according to the EFM Alliance.

In addition, some network infrastructure providers already offer EFM-esque equipment using some proprietary technology. For example, Cisco's VDSL-based Long-Reach Ethernet (LRE) infrastructure gear does this by extending traditional 100-meter Ethernet distances to 3,500 to 5,000 feet over plain-old-telephone service cabling. Currently, LRE speeds range from 5M to 15M bit/sec.

James Collinge, Cisco manager of Ethernet access product marketing, says that European service providers Telecom Italia, Bredbandsbolaget (B2) in Sweden and Oulu Telecom in Northern Finland have deployed services based on the technology.

There are no LRE-based metro Ethernet services in North America yet (or services based on any other vendors' copper technology that we can unearth), but Collinge says that he expects LRE-based services to become available from incumbent local-exchange carriers in the U.S. by late next year. 

Learn more about this topic

Fiber is scarce in last mile, research firm says

Network World Wide Area Networking Newsletter, 08/05/03

Ethernet in the First Mile alliance

IEEE 802.3ah Task Force

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