Qwest to use optics to speed provisioning

DENVER -- Qwest says it will soon install new optical equipment in its network that will make it easier to get user circuits up and running.

The national broadband carrier today will announce that it will install a variety of transport and switching systems based on optical wavelengths rather than traditional electronic regeneration of signals.

The equipment will let Qwest reduce the number of hops, or regeneration points, on a cross-country circuit from as many as 30 to as few as two. The plan will be implemented starting next year.

The reduction in hops will, in turn, reduce the amount of time it takes Qwest to provision new user circuits on its backbone network. Qwest installation times have been slipping as customer sales of voice and data services have frequently surpassed the carrier's ability to light new fiber pairs along the firm's 18,500-route-mile national network.

A choice to make

The new equipment will be chosen from among a variety of vendors. They will provide add/drop multiplexers, digital cross-connects, and packet and cell switching over pure optics, which can carry signals farther down the line, and add, drop or reroute circuits in a matter of minutes rather than days.

The equipment will be installed in Qwest facilities in 25 major metropolitan areas, says Ron Haigh, senior optical architect for Qwest. The new transport and switching system will be installed on additional fibers along Qwest routes; already-lit fibers will retain their existing electronics.

Qwest maintains 48 fiber pairs along its broadband network, and under the new plan the company will in essence have two networks -- the electronics-based network along some of the fibers and the optical-based network along others.

Haigh concedes that the reduction in installation time only affects the backbone portion of a user's circuit, not the local loop or back-office operations. As a result, he and other Qwest officials could not quantify the exact reduction in installation intervals that users will enjoy.

Haigh also says that some of the products Qwest is considering using are still in the development stage, and in the end the carrier may not use all of the vendors it will specify in today's announcement.

Qwest's move to an all-optical portion of the network is an attempt by the carrier to stay ahead of the crowd, says Afshin Mohebb,i Qwest president and chief operating officer.

Beginning in 1997, Qwest was the first to install OC-192 (10G bit/sec) transport capacity in its network construction, a goal other carriers are still trying to achieve.

This story, "Qwest to use optics to speed provisioning" was originally published by Network World.

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