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Cisco touts fibre-based Ethernet at 20xDSL speeds

It's faster but not everyone can get it

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Cisco used this week's Broadband DSL Forum in Berlin to promote fibre-based Ethernet access as an alternative, far faster broadband technology for homes and businesses.

It lined up telcos and ISPs from Italy (FastWeb), Sweden (Sonera and Bredbandsbolgat) and new customers in Austria and the UK to extol the benefits of its Ethernet-based approach, which typically delivers speeds 20 times faster than is possible with current ADSL technology.

Surf Telecom, the telecoms infrastructure division of Western Power Distribution, is using Cisco's Metro Ethernet switching kit to supply broadband Ethernet access to businesses, academic institutions, and service providers in the South West of England through its fibre optic telecommunications network. The service can scale from 10Mbps to Gigabit Ethernet.

Surf Telecoms runs most of its fibre optic cable along its existing power cables, either as a separate cable or wrapped around the earth wire. This is only a quarter the cost of running underground cables.

The company also locates its points of presence (POPs) within existing electricity substations, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure of parent company Western Power Distribution. Surf Telecoms is using Cisco 7600 Series Routers in its Ethernet backbone, and is deploying Cisco Catalyst 3550 Series switches in smaller POPs and at customer premises.

Meanwhile Wienstrom has picked Cisco's kit to help deliver its Blizznet broadband service to residential customers in Vienna. Using a combination of metro optical fibre networks and Cisco technology, Wienstrom is now providing 10Mbps Ethernet-based access to the home.

Before we get ahead of ourselves thinking that high speed Ethernet access is just around the corner let's remember that its deployment to the home is restricted to cities littered with apartment block where regulations allow building owners to negotiate deals on behalf of all their residents. That works in Vienna, Milan and in large parts of Korea - but not London and many other places, unfortunately.

Metro Ethernet delivery to consumers requires a critical mass so even in Milan, FastWeb uses DSL to fill the gaps in its coverage. Its also worth noting that Alcatel announced that it had passed the 20 million milestone of DSL line shipments this week. Ethernet is a long, long way back but it will be a serious competitor to even to higher speed VDSL technology (which offers 5-23Mbps of bandwidth) in the future.

In Britain metro Ethernet is strictly a service provider play, which is being pushed forward by a small but growing number of alternative providers. Ethernet, well established in the enterprise, is being enhanced in ways that make it's a robust alternative in the service provider arena, where Cisco argues it can be deployed as a telco triple play - to deliver voice, data and video services.

To further this aim, Cisco this week unveiled a package of enhancements to the its Metro Ethernet Switching portfolio, including the announcement of the Catalyst 4500 series of switches.

Catalyst 4500 switches are designed to allow service providers to deploy converged networks in Metro environment with higher levels of performance and resilience as well as improved management functions. Cisco also introduced Layer 3 Metro services on its Catalyst. 3550 switch and unveiled enhancements to its core IOS software to improve scalability and improve the delivery of video over IP networks.

Lastly the networking giant announced tweaks to its Cisco 7600 series router and Catalyst 6500 series switch line that allow the equipment to aggregate both ATM and Ethernet services. More details on these enhancements can be found here. ®

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