AT&T to begin 400 Gigabit Ethernet trials in 2017

Ethernet network

AT&T is planning to begin trials of 400 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) speeds for business customers early next year, marking the next stage of the service capabilities it can offer to business customers who connect to their global network. 

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After demonstrating the ability to offer a 400 GbE service across its production network, AT&T said that the service will give businesses a number of key benefits including faster uploads and downloads, the ability to transport massive amounts of data at record speeds, more bandwidth and faster video streaming.

A key part of supporting 400 GbE speeds is AT&T’s Ethernet network. Since it began its Project VIP program in 2012, the service provider has connected over 1 million incremental business customer locations to its fiber, and has lit over 200,000 buildings with fiber.

AT&T said the 400 Gigabit Ethernet testing will be performed in 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: AT&T will use Coriant’s optical gear to carry a 400GbE service across a long-distance span of AT&T global backbone from New York to Washington, demonstrating that AT&T's nationwide software-centric network is 400G-ready.
  • Phase 2: Leveraging Ciena’s optical equipment, AT&T will demonstrate a 400GbE connection on a single 400G wavelength across AT&T's OpenROADM metro network. During this phase, AT&T will demonstrate its network is ready to transport 400GbE to serve its customers in a metro area.

    What’s compelling for AT&T about software-controlled ROADMs – along with other carriers that have large scale optical networks – is that they can automatically detect and adjust bandwidth. Additionally, they can move traffic to different lanes as needed. Specifically, these ROADMs can turn capacity up or down, route around trouble and come back online quickly when there’s a failure.
  • Phase 3: Finally, AT&T will test the first instance of a 400GbE open router platform. AT&T said the "disaggregated router" platform uses merchant silicon and open source software.

While 400 GbE won’t apply to every business, the driver here is to accommodate data traffic growth. AT&T said that data traffic on its network has grown a whopping 150,000 percent between 2007 and 2015.

Besides offering higher network speeds and agility, the GbE service aligns with the shift toward a software-centric network.

Being able to roll out new services like 400 GbE is key for AT&T, particularly as it moves to increase strategic business revenues it can sell to large enterprises and public sector agencies.

During the third quarter, AT&T reported that strategic business services revenues rose 9 percent year-over-year to $2.9 billion and now consist of 37 percent of business wireline revenues. Meanwhile, strategic wireline business services revenue was $2.9 billion, up 9.1 percent year-over-year.