Optical Carrier Services
Voice and data services available on fiber optic
By: John Shepler
Optical carrier services such as SONET
and Gigabit Ethernet are becoming more available and less expensive
as the need for bandwidth increases to support such applications
as enterprise VoIP, teleradiology, off site data backup for disaster
recovery and video transport.
SONET, the Classic Optical Carrier
SONET is an acronym for Synchronous Optical Network. SONET was
developed as a set of standards for telephone carriers in the
mid-1980's. SONET picks up where lower speed trunk lines leave
off but still maintains compatibility at the digital signal level.
For instance, the basic signal level for
SONET circuits is STS-1 for synchronous transport signal. It's
speed is 51.84 Mbps which is capable of carrying 1 DS3. A DS3
is the same digital signal level used by a 45 Mbps T3 line in
the copper type carrier world. It is also the capacity of 28
DS-1 signals, the same as 28 T1 lines. When carried on fiber
optic cable, a STS-1 signal is called an OC-1. An OC3 line would
be the equivalent of 3 T3 lines and an OC48 would have the same
capacity of 48 T3 lines.
Megabits / Second
SONET was designed to carry telephone conversations,
so it handles the TDM (time division multiplexing ) digital voicechannels from PBX and telephone carrier switches easily. Because
it is synchronized like the T-carriers, you can add or remove
channels at will with an add-drop multiplexer. This makes it
easy to interconnect a group of locations in a regional or even
SONET can be provisioned as a point to
point circuit or hub and spoke star network, but the protocol
really shines when it is set up as a ring of two independent
loops. The system is designed to automatically switch from the
main to the backup loop in 50 milliseconds or less if a fault
occurs. This is called automatic protection switching.
Data over SONET
Like T1, SONET was originally designed to handle high capacity
telephone traffic in digital format. It has since been used to
carry high speed digital traffic, including backbone service
for Internet Service Providers. ATM, Frame Relay, and Ethernet
protocol signals can all be encapsulated and sent over SONET
ring networks. If you are using a T1 or T3 data line now, it
may well be carried by an optical network and dropped off and
converted to the copper signal format at your location.
Internet Protocol has become the defacto standard for data communications.
Switched Ethernet networks running at 10 Mbps, Fast Ethernet
at 100 Mbps, Gigabit Ethernet at 1 Gbps and 10 Gig Ethernet at
10 Gbps are the basic network speeds for large and small enterprises
alike. The beauty of IP based services is that a corporate network
in one city can connect via an Ethernet service provisioned on
fiber optic cable to a similar network in another city and they'll
work like one big network. The fiber optic circuit is simply
a long, very long, network cable.
The current trend is to convert everything
into IP format so that telephone calls, file transfers, Internet
service and video conferencing can share the same network. That
process is called convergence. Converging all those proprietary
networks intoone big one often has cost savings benefits especially
at the enterprise level. You'll just have to be sure to have
enough network bandwidth to handle all the extra data packets
and quality of service management tools to ensure that voice
and video signals get the priority they need to run as well as
they did on their own networks.
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