Colt works with Cisco on 5G backhaul

Ethernet can enable the sharing of dark fiber for 5G backhaul. (Getty Images)

Colt Technology Services, a provider of high bandwidth connectivity, is working with Cisco for Colt to deliver 5G backhaul.

Cisco is helping Colt to add greater flexibility to its Colt IQ Network for mobile service providers ahead of the advent of 5G. The Colt IQ Network connects more than 800 global data centers and thousands of fiber-connected buildings, which are all controlled by IQ Network software.

Peter Coppens, VP of product for Colt, said in an interview with FierceTelecom that Colt has been working with Cisco and Ciena for a couple of years to add more capability to the Colt IQ Network. Colt has invested in Ciena equipment for optical upgrades, and it’s investing in Cisco products and services for the packet side of the network. “We started with our historically dominant regions in Europe,” said Coppens. “Then we rolled out to Asia, which is getting more important. And then last summer we expanded into the U.S.”

5G Backhaul

Today Colt is highlighting its work with Cisco to deliver the use case of 5G backhaul. For this use case, Colt is deploying Cisco’s programmable segment routing and Ethernet VPN (EVPN) based architecture.

Segment routing is a new way of routing that makes the network more flexible and scalable. “You don’t need to maintain a per-application state and per-flow state,” said Coppens. “It helps us to build scalable networks.” 

Cisco’s EVPN solution is particularly important for Colt’s 5G backhaul because it can replace the need to deploy fiber, in some cases.

“The normal way to do backhaul is to go with dark fiber to a 4G antenna and then deliver connectivity to a mobile network operator,” said Coppens. But by working with Cisco’s EVPN, Ethernet can enable the sharing of that dark fiber. 

“Cell tower owners were asking for dark fiber, but it’s a dedicated circuit,” said Coppens. “To keep the investment reasonable, more mobile network operators will want to share locations. And tower companies want to impose one infrastructure and set up as many MNOs on them as possible. Ethernet, instead of dark fiber, is simpler to share and still be able to give a class of service to different providers and different slices of the customers.”

Coppens added that with dark fiber it’s “very hard to do multi-tenant, with Ethernet it's much easier to do multi-tenant at the cell tower.”

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“We have worked closely with Cisco to design a network architecture that is simple to operate, highly available, and capable of delivering the innovative network services that are required for 5G,” said Coppens.