Verizon Business has deployed 100Gb per second equipment on a fibre link between Paris and Frankfurt, activating the next generation of optical networking for commercial services to enterprises.

The 100Gbps module, installed in a Nortel Networks 6500 multiservice platform, allows Verizon to send 10 times as much data as its existing 10Gbps interfaces over a single wavelength on a pair of optical fibres. All the interfaces feed into the same fibre pair, which can carry traffic on 80 different wavelengths. Verizon claims it is the first such deployment.

Though Verizon doesn't yet offer a 100Gbps service to individual customers and no enterprise is demanding it, the carrier has started deploying the faster links on its own backbone to keep up with fast growing demand for capacity, said Glenn Wellbrock, director of backbone network design at Verizon Business. Nearly half of the wavelengths on the Paris-Frankfurt backbone are full today, he said. Verizon expects to also deploy 100Gbps backbone links in North America starting next year.

Though most businesses buy connections of 100Mbps or less, a handful are already using 40Gbps optical links directly to Verizon, and a UK national educational network called Janet has trialed a 100Gbps connection, Wellbrock said. Standards for Ethernet at 40Gbps and 100Gbps should be completed around the middle of next year, with commercial services later in 2010. Cellular base stations as well as businesses now require fatter pipes, with some mobile backhaul connections moving up to 100Mbps, he said.

WDM (wavelength division multiplexing) equipment lets carriers send many distinct streams of traffic over the same fiber by putting them on different wavelengths. By replacing a 10Gbps interface on either end of the 893-kilometer (555-mile) link, Verizon can send 10 times as much data over one of those wavelengths without replacing any other equipment, Wellbrock said. The amplifiers that are required every 50 miles or so along the network remain the same.

Verizon appears to be out in front with 100Gbps, while rival AT&T, for example, has been deploying 40Gbps optical links, which became available earlier, said Infonetics Research analyst Andrew Schmitt. Nortel itself has a lead of about 18 months on other vendors in supplying the technology, while the pending acquisition of Nortel's optical business by Ciena has helped to ease concerns over its viability, he said. Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei Technologies are the company's major rivals in this arena.

Stepping up to faster optical connections benefits carriers twice, Schmitt said. More traffic on a single wavelength means that fewer wavelengths, and ultimately fibres, need to be installed. But also, splitting traffic up among many 10Gbps links can introduce latency that affects uses of the network such as voice and video, he said. To get the same real speed and latency as a 100Gbps link, it actually takes between 13 and 16 of the 10Gbps interfaces, according to Schmitt.

Infonetics expects carriers to install only a few 100Gbps interfaces before 2013, when the cost of the faster gear is likely to reach parity with 40Gbps products, Schmitt said. Likewise, few enterprises will buy services at that speed in the near future, though companies such as Google may deploy them for some of the world's largest data centres, he said.

"Most people will just be tipping their toes into 100-Gig next year," Schmitt said.