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The 40G transmission flap: Sprint’s story

Jun 14, 20044 mins
AT&TInternet Service ProvidersNetworking

* MCI not the only one to send IP packets at 40G bit/sec, Sprint says

Was MCI really first at 40G bit/sec IP transmission? Not according to Sprint and AT&T.

MCI announced on May 24 that it had successfully sent IP packets from San Francisco to San Jose at 40G bit/sec in what it claims was the fastest IP transmission ever. MCI achieved this milestone by using the latest routers from Cisco and transponders from StrataLight. MCI’s field trial lasted two weeks, and involved simulated traffic including HDTV-quality video conferencing, gaming and music downloads.

MCI says it has no plans to introduce a commercial 40G service in the U.S., but it hopes to use 40G on its IP backbone to consolidate different kinds of traffic including voice, data and video.  MCI says it is looking to 40G service to help improve the efficiency of its IP network and reduce operational costs.

In contrast, the fastest service available today from MCI, Sprint and AT&T is 10G bit/sec.

We covered MCI’s 40G trial in the ISP News Report last week. But is MCI really ahead in the development or deployment of 40G service? This week, we’ll look at the progress MCI rivals Sprint and AT&T are making on 40G service.

Nine days after MCI made its 40G announcement, Sprint issued a press release announcing a similar 40G trial. Sprint claimed it was the first ISP to carry live, production Internet traffic from its business customers over a 40G link between Stockton, Calif., and San Jose. 

Sprint – whose IP network is built upon Cisco routers – says it has been working with a prototype of Cisco’s new 40G-capable CRS-1 router since last October. Sprint put its recent trial together using two of Cisco’s latest routers, transponders from StrataLight and DWDM equipment from Ciena.

“MCI’s trial was basically a lab experiment. They put traffic on [the 40G link] with generators like they were running it in a lab,” says Chase Cotton, director of data engineering for Sprint. “We integrated 40G service with the existing SprintLink public Internet. On Sunday night, May 23, we cut over the San Jose router and began carrying public transport over 40G…We’ve been carrying all the SprintLink traffic between Stockton and San Jose since then.”

Sprint’s Stockton and San Jose POPs are its “two major nodes in the West,” Cotton says, adding that all of Sprint’s e-commerce and business customers in Northern California are benefiting from 40G service. “This is a major link, a normal operational link, and any traffic headed there is going over 40G,” Cotton adds.

Sprint officials concede that the timing of their announcement was in response to MCI. Sprint has a history of being the first to put new routers from Cisco into production mode, and the ISP did not want to be scooped by MCI.

“We’ve taken pride over the years at being the first to bring new equipment into production. We’re pretty visionary,” Cotton says. Sprint’s latest trial with production traffic was “a step we would have made anyway to test this part of the [CSR] box.”

One aspect of 40G service that Sprint and MCI agree upon is how it will eventually be used. Like MCI, Sprint is looking to 40G service as a way of collapsing its two-tier IP network into a single-layer network to reduce costs, improve simplicity and ease management. Sprint hopes to use Cisco’s new CSR routers to replace separate backbone and edge routers.

“We ultimately plan to collapse the edge and core routers into this single piece of equipment, and we need to work with Cisco to develop edge service features,” Cotton says. “We believe this technology will probably be…introduced over the next 18 to 24 months…Although if we had a customer come to us and want 40G service we could make this happen faster.”