Siemens claims to be able to increase network capacity by 30 percent with new connection software. By making better use of duplicate connections within the network, it claims the end result will be greater flexibility and competition, especially in the international bandwidth market.

The new capabilities are built into Siemens' implementation of GMPLS, an extension of MPLS which operates at the physical link layer of the network, rather than the IP layer. It means that the network makes more efficient use of its fibres and SONET/SDH links, especially the many redundant links laid in for failover purposes.

"The 30 percent advantage comes from using the network more efficiently," said Dr Andreas Iselt, an engineer with Siemens Corporate Technology's high speed networks group. "Traditionally, networks used to protect against failures with one-plus-one protection, so in principle they needed twice the capacity - or more. Our approach shares that protection around."

In essence, GMPLS brings standard interfaces and on-demand routing to carrier networks. Instead of manually configured point-to-point links, the physical network becomes more like a routed cloud, allowing end-to-end connections to be provisioned automatically.

According to Iselt, the performance improvement comes from how Siemens handles this provisioning: "Thirty percent is the general advantage - we have some very good algorithms for this." He added that the figure comes from trials and network modelling, and said the software is already available on the SN16000 cross-connect from Siemens partner Sycamore.

Siemens is not the only company developing to the evolving GMPLS standard - many others already have GMPLS-capable products, including Alcatel (which has a white paper on the topic here), Cisco and Juniper. GMPLS is relatively young though, and its on-demand routing capability is still mostly in the demonstration phase.

"The big advantage of GMPLS will be interoperability, so you can have equipment from different manufacturers talking to each other," Iselt said. "Each carrier optimises the utilisation within its own [single vendor] network and provides connectivity via standard interfaces. Then you can set up a circuit automatically from Munich to London, say.

"We see from our first investigations that this will have a major impact on business processes within carriers - they can automate the provisioning of bandwidth, so this will change the business model."

He predicted that by simplifying the process of provisioning bandwidth, GMPLS will increase carriers' flexibility and that as a result, customers could get cheaper international links provided more swiftly. It should make it easier to change suppliers too, bringing more competition, he said.