Verizon builds on-demand foundation for long-haul optical network

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) expects its recent move to begin upgrades on its long-haul optical network with Alcatel-Lucent's (NYSE: ALU) photonic equipment will set the stage for providing an automated on-demand environment from which it and its customers can provision wavelengths and bandwidth between key routes on the network.

Unlike its recent metro network announcement, the Alcatel-Lucent equipment is not replacing the Ciena 6500 platforms for that long-haul network, but rather is complementing them with additional capabilities.  

"It's not an overlay per se and it's not replacing the Ciena 6500 platforms that we put out there on 30,000 some route miles and is our backbone network," said Glen Wellbrock, director of optical transport network architecture and design for Verizon, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "This will be used in many of the similar locations but it's being put in for competitive reasons and is not displacing like the next-gen metro is."  

Wellbrock added that from a technology point of view, the Alcatel-Lucent platform is very similar in that it will help drive more automation in the long-haul network.

"From a pure technology perspective, I would argue it's nearly identical in respects that the automation they're speaking of what it's capable of doing with that agile photonic layer is very similar to what will be available in metro as well," Wellbrock said. "The goal here was to try, at least in the press release, put more words around what that provides as opposed to what the technology is." 

Looking forward, Verizon could also implement similar automation capabilities in its metro network as well.

Automation is a key element of this deployment. On the long haul side, Verizon could redirect specific wavelengths between network routes in a more real-time fashion.

"On the long-haul side it's the ability for the first time to take a wavelength and you could take the next card and literally plug it in," Wellbrock said. "In the past we always had to pre-determine which wavelength and which direction it was not because the card wasn't tunable, but you had to plug it into a specific port to make it go Denver to Salt Lake City versus Denver to Kansas City."

Previously, if Verizon wanted to direct traffic east out of Denver, a network technician had to plug it into a different shelf and a different port on the gear inside its network sites. However, that approach was static and left Verizon without the ability to change the route quickly if it needed.

"Once you get that it's very static and you can't remotely change that or do anything dynamic with that," Wellbrock said. "It's a very static environment, meaning that if you want to change it, you have to physically go there, tear it down, pull the connector out and put it into the new location and turn it back up."

Alternatively, the agile photonic layer of the wavelength selective switch (WSS) allows Verizon to redirect traffic remotely by using the coherent receiver and the CDC structure to move the wavelength around in any direction.  

"With the agile photonic layer and the capabilities of the wavelength selective switch, you can redirect that so the card can be sitting there and someone from a NOC center or even better from an automating provisioning system perspective can determine which direction and which wavelength it wants to go," Wellbrock said. "If I want to change it or need demands it's a simple software command that performs that function remotely because it does not have to physically move."

By having these new capabilities in the network, Verizon can redirect traffic according to traffic demands. For example, it can move traffic directly between Denver to New York City without having to go through various hops along the way.  

"We can automate that process by moving traffic to the express route so that you would idle up resources on that route that would go from Denver to Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York," Wellbrock said. "Now I have all of those paths available and an empty channel on them and my express path gets the capacity between those two locations."

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