Verizon taps Ciena, Cisco to build its 100G U.S. metro network

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is moving ahead with plans to incorporate 100G optical technology into its U.S. metro network, naming Ciena and Cisco as its packet optical network system (P-OTS) suppliers.

Set on improving the scalability and efficiency of its metro network, the deployment is part of a broader initiative it is taking to modernize its metro optical network, by replacing legacy TDM-based infrastructure with packet-based optical transport capabilities.

Verizon said that by using Ciena and Cisco's 100G CDC ROADMs it will be able to "advance and scale its network while maintaining existing services and reducing service-activation times as well as network operation and maintenance costs."

While Verizon has been a clear advocate of using 100G in the metro, what's different about this latest deployment is that it's going to serve as a Greenfield overlay to its existing metro transport network.

"What we had done in the past was Brownfield so we used 100 Gig on the existing ROADMs that are out there," said Glen Wellbrock, director of optical transport network architecture and design for Verizon, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "The existing Coriant and Fujitsu ROADM systems in place that are carrying lots of capacity today were upgraded with 100G cards in more of a brownfield environment so there's lots of 10G and 40G cards on the same system, but what this announcement is a new set of platforms that will deployed as an overlay to those existing ones."

Wellbrock added the new Ciena and Cisco systems are designed with 100G as a minimum with the option to scale to higher speeds like 200G and beyond as they need to scale the network.

"It's optimized for much higher capacities and scalability and most of that comes from the fact that it's designed with 100G and above as opposed to 10G and we eventually used 100G on it," Wellbrock said. 

The service provider will test and deploy Ciena's metro-based 6500 P-OTS platform and the Cisco Network Convergence System (NCS4000) on parts of its 100G metro network in 2015, with plans to turn up live traffic next year. Interestingly, Verizon indicated that supplier volumes will be determined by a host of factors, including ongoing testing, support and performance.

Wellbrock said that since this is a metro deployment, the roll out of these platforms will be a bit more complex than what it faced on the long-haul network when it deployed 100G.

"It will be a multi-year build because the metro networks are extremely large and complex," Wellbrock said. "If you look at each one of them they are arguably as big and more complex than our long-haul network because they have up to 200 nodes at different locations."

When it built 100G in the brownfield network, it took Verizon nearly five years to complete, but Wellbrock said that was because part of it used SONET.

"The last time it took a bit longer because we used SONET, which was still sufficient for some things, and that made a bit slower than this one would be because we already made that leap," Wellbrock said. "There are different sized boxes so I think the new infrastructure will go in quickly because you don't have to use the same one everywhere."

Interestingly, Verizon indicated that supplier volumes will be determined by a host of factors, including ongoing testing, support and performance.

"This announcement is vendor selection and evaluation hasn't really started yet," Wellbrock said. 

Verizon is hardly a novice in the 100G race, having implemented 100G across its long-haul optical networks in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific. In January, the service provider deployed 100G technology on its network in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, connecting these three locations in one of its highest growth regions.

But 100G is only part of Verizon's optical networking plans. Earlier, Verizon deployed 200G technology over about 200 miles on its long-haul production network between Boston and New York, a move it will likely make in other markets.

This network deployment is also significant for both Ciena and Cisco, two vendors that have been enhancing their profiles in the broader optical market segment.

Andrew Schmitt, principal analyst for carrier transport networking at Infonetics Research/IHS, said in a research note that gaining the lead vendor position for Verizon's 100 metro optical project is a key proof point that Cisco has the right P-OTS strategy.  

"Cisco badly needed a win for the NCS4000 which is an all-in bet by the company on packet-optical capabilities," wrote Schmitt. "The company must hit certain milestones with Verizon in the coming quarters to retain its lead vendor position."

Schmitt added that if Cisco falls short of any of Verizon's goals, Ciena could take over as the lead vendor. "In case of any stumbles, Ciena is well positioned to take the lead vendor slot, something I, like many others, assumed would happen from the outset," wrote Schmitt.

According to a recent Infonetics report examining the performance of optical vendors in 2014, Ciena became the second largest optical vendor in the world in 2014, just edging out Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), while Huawei remains No. 1. However, Infinera, which Infonetics said was the fastest growing optical company in the West (North America and EMEA combined), grew revenue 23 percent over 2013, followed by Ciena at 12 percent.

Likewise, Cisco's optical revenue was up 2.4 percent for 2014 as the company seeks customers for its NCS 4000 platform and re-orients sales efforts due to the rapidly changing tastes of traditional customers in the enterprise and data center markets.

For more:
- see the release

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This article was updated on March 24 with additional information from Verizon.