Qwest Communications International is gearing up to deliver data at 100Gbit/s all the way across its network to a customer's location.

Qwest, the third-largest US regional carrier, is using the Alcatel-Lucent equipment in a network buildout that will continue through 2010. The gear will be deployed in the backbone as well as the edge of the carrier's network so Qwest eventually can sell enterprise customers 100-Gigabit Ethernet connections.

Qwest plans to install Alcatel's 7750 Service Router at the edge of its network and the 1625 LambdaXtreme Transport optical multiplexing platform in the core. Both will provide room to scale up performance and service speeds on the network over time, said Pieter Poll, the carrier's chief technology officer. Qwest intends to be first to market with 100Gbit/s services as soon as the interfaces are available, he said.

Alcatel announced a 100-Gigabit Ethernet interface for the 7750 Service Router last month and said it would ship commercially in the middle of next year. The 100Gbps interface for the 1625 LambdaXtreme Transport also will ship next year. Juniper has also introduced a 100Gbit/s interface in its T1600 Core Router, and Cisco Systems has said it will offer 100-Gigabit Ethernet when there is a standard for it. A standard for 100-Gigabit Ethernet, as well as for 40-Gigabit Ethernet, is expected to be complete around the middle of next year.

After several years of overcapacity caused by the rush to build telecommunications capacity in the 1990s, network traffic is catching up with available bandwidth. A major driver of this is video, both over the Internet and as part of bundled home broadband services from carriers. Demand for 100Gbit/s right to an enterprise data center, ten times the fastest commonly deployed service, is not expected to materialize for a while. But Qwest also aims to reduce latency in its core network. And a single 100Gbit/s link across a fiber network thousands of kilometres long is more efficient than multiple slower connections, Poll said.

"We are very bullish on the cost-effectiveness of the 100-Gigabit interface," Poll said. Qwest is trying to bring down the cost of providing bandwidth so it can afford to keep up with growing demand, he said. Using fewer, faster connections should also improve power efficiency, according to Qwest. The new, faster infrastructure will complement, not replace, Qwest's existing network.

To illustrate the speed of 100Gbit/s, Qwest said an end-to-end connection at that speed could transport a two-hour high-definition movie in under 9 seconds, the contents of a fully loaded 500GB hard drive in 46 seconds and 90 digital mammograms per second.

The kinds of companies looking at end-to-end 100-Gigabit services are operators of massive data centres, such as Google, Microsoft and large content providers, Infonetics Research analyst Michael Howard said last month. He expected 100-Gigabit Ethernet to be widely deployed by 2012 or 2015.