Covad Boosts Wholesale Network With MPLS

Covad Communications is adding MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) to its wholesale network to help operator customers deliver the quality of service required for applications such as voice and video over IP.

More than bandwidth, carriers and their business customers are demanding that applications run smoothly over IP (Internet Protocol) networks, according to Young-Sae Song, vice president of marketing at Covad Wholesale. MPLS uses tags on packets to distinguish the traffic of one application from another so each can be transported as customers expect.

A longtime business DSL and leased-line provider, Covad operates access networks that can reach more than 50 million homes and businesses around the U.S., Song said. Behind those networks are metropolitan fiber rings and a national backbone. In addition to selling its own business broadband services, the company lets ISPs (Internet service providers) and carriers offer their own services over its metropolitan networks and last-mile connections. Those home and business services typically include T-1, T-3 and DSL (digital subscriber line).

Until now, those carriers have had to use ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) interfaces to link Covad's network to their own. But increasingly, the company's carrier partners want to use IP connections, with MPLS to deliver quality of service, Song said. IP/MPLS is more efficient and easier to manage than ATM, according to Covad. Within the next few months, Covad will also give them the option of using Ethernet for the handoff to Covad's network, Song said.

Along with the addition of MPLS, Covad said it now has metropolitan SONET (synchronous optical network) rings with capacities as high as 10G bps (bits per second). Ethernet is the next technology emerging for metropolitan networks, but Covad needed to deploy SONET in order to link up with all its customers, Song said. The equipment that the company used for those rings can be upgraded for Ethernet over SONET or ROADM (reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer) interfaces in the future.

Despite the ailing economy, demand for network services continues to grow, analysts say. The major carriers still have healthy cash flow and are keeping their investments in data networks fairly steady, according to Infonetics analyst Michael Howard.

Covad has between 450 and 500 wholesale partners, Song said, including Verizon, AT&T and smaller national and regional service providers.

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