Sprint to launch broader Ethernet service set later this year

Sprint (NYSE: S) may be a late bloomer in the Ethernet services market, but it has put some bold plans in place that will leverage its Network Vision initiative for its wireless network to deliver a broader set of Carrier Ethernet services this year.

While he could not reveal the specific details or when its new set of Ethernet services would be available, Mike Fitz, vice president – wireline and solutions engineering for Sprint, said in an interview with FierceTelecom that "we're entertaining deals now and we'll be turning customers up."

Given the fact that Sprint's main focus is on wireless, the largest customer for the Ethernet access service will be its wireless division.

In addition to building out the Ethernet to support the backhaul of wireless traffic, Ethernet will be used to back up its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) services.

Its ongoing rollout of Ethernet is supported by ongoing investments in its wireline network infrastructure. Last year, the service provider increased its investment in its wireline business by 53 percent. Fitz said that "I do expect that the investment to remain at these higher levels as we go forward."

To date, Sprint's Ethernet offering, which clients use primarily to access its MPLS network services, is available in 147 markets domestically and 64 countries. In 2013, Sprint plans to expand to about 30 new domestic cities, which includes a combination of new cities and expansions within existing cities.

A key challenge for Sprint in expanding into to new markets is getting last mile network connections to the businesses it needs to serve. Unlike AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), both of which have an expansive wireline last mile network Sprint has to rely on partners to get that last mile access.

"We've been expanding rapidly with Ethernet access and that's a key for us," Fitz said. "When we don't own much of that access, or any of that access, we need to have as many interconnections out there as we possibly can to help with price and with reach."

Outside of the U.S., Sprint continues to establish External-Network to Network Interconnection (E-NNI) agreements with other service providers.

In Spain, Sprint just established a connection with data center provider Interxion, giving them access to all of the area network service providers such as Telefonica.

Serving the growth of its current Ethernet access service and upcoming CE launch will be its network backbone that's being built with 100G optical capabilities. Leveraging Ciena's (Nasdaq: CIEN) 6500 platform, Sprint will be able scale its core network initially to 40G and 100G, and later 400G as network demands dictate.  

Recently, the service provider turned up its first 100G link across 2,100 km.

Fitz said what is unique about their link is that "it is the first link at 100 Gig that we have been able to do across that distance without any regeneration."

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