Get real: Ethernet wide area transport is about as ubiquitous as NFL franchises

Brian Worthen, Mammoth NetworksVendors and carriers alike extol the virtues of Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to create private networks and WAN connectivity. These parties wax poetic about a future where every American business can have access to 1 Gbps, 10 Gbps and with recent equipment developments, 100 Gbps. One has to wonder how far from the city these folks have wandered.

 ...the focus for Gigabit Ethernet is on markets where there is demand for Gigabit Ethernet.

In actuality, the focus for Gigabit Ethernet is on markets where there is demand for Gigabit Ethernet. These are the NFL cities and the metro markets that have a high concentration of heavy users. In rural America, Central Offices are fed by TDM and the local cable provider uses that same TDM to serve communities with the "competitive" solution. Without demand from multiple heavy users, rural fiber development cannot take place without subsidy, government partnerships or initiatives where groups like Google shame rural America into developing a market.

Take any business WAN and qualify them for Gigabit Ethernet, and you will see locations in cities with population of less than 250,000 fall out for lack of availability. The market has trained the consumer to accept this and place less of a priority on these outlying locations.

In actuality, a more technological approach is required. Routers as much as five years old support TDM to Ethernet conversion. It is a simple process to card a router to overlay ATM on top of Ethernet.  With a creative staff and the proper support method, a WAN can be created with GigE, ATM, TDM, bonded TDM and a very traditional microwave that is presented to the customer as VLANs on and Ethernet connection.

BT fiber installThe largest hindrance in this effort is not the technology, it is the insistence on the large carriers to please investors and cut headcount. (Image source: BT)

The largest hindrance in this effort is not the technology, it is the insistence on the large carriers to please investors and cut headcount. The salaries that have the largest impact on the bottom line are the veterans that understand these older technologies. The end result is compartmentalization of support staff where John understands ATM, Sally understands TDM and Muxing and James understands IP and routing.  Put the three in the same room, and they would not agree on how to support a diverse WAN. Better yet, add in Stacey from sales and they won't know how to price the WAN.

Boiled down, our telecom world will focus on orange-haired staffers in the IP department that can't relate to a Central Office technician in rural America. Pair that with market insistence that a broad and vast America can deploy fiber as effectively as Singapore or Korea, and these factors means the Gigabit Ethernet market will need black belts in interoperability. These groups that can not only pair old-school with new and fully support it, but also look beyond the sexiness of GigE and draw on this knowledge to retain and help a customer grow.

Until this happens, rural markets will become increasingly alienated and frustrated to the point of building a supply of fiber based on spite rather than demand.

Carriers--send your orange-haired techs to rural America. Have them talk to 30-year veterans who have seen growth starting with 56k DS0s and Frame Relay. Pair them with groups back in the city that can price, build and support a diverse network to help your business customer.

Brian Worthen is Founder & CEO of Mammoth Networks and a special guest columnist for FierceTelecom.

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