Vendor Offers Telcos an Ethernet Path

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First-mile Ethernet connections may be the way for telcos to get out of their twisted-copper bandwidth handcuffs — and a Fremont, Calif.-based silicon provider aims to help them do just that.

Ikanos Communications recently debuted a first-mile Ethernet technology that can deliver up to 100 megabits per second (mbps) of information over twisted-copper wires.

The company aims its SmartLeap 8100 chipsets at three basic markets — multi-tenant units, remote digital subscriber line access multiplexers and DS3 extensions for business connections, said vice president of marketing Richard Sekar.

In particular, Ikanos offers business customers new alternatives to fiber links. Carriers today charge from $6,000 to $40,000 per month for a 45 mbps DS3 connection, and that throughput is limited to 600 feet from the fiber node.

The Ikanos chipset can extend that distance to between 3,000 and 4,000 feet, thus widening the available customer field.

"This is a broader application. No. 1, it's a high-margin opportunity; No. 2, instead of having to dig trenches to install fiber, we enable them to offer 45 mbps over existing telephone wire," Sekar said.

Driven by high-density silicon that supports 85 million transistors, the SmartLeap 8100 programmable chip technology uses DSL's discrete multitone scheme to deliver symmetric speeds between 64 kilobits per second and 100 Mbps at distances of up to 5,000 feet.

VDSL OPTION

It also can be configured to support 10 mbps Ethernet in the first mile, as well as asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and very-high-bitrate DSL (VDSL) connections.

Part of the reason the chip can boost bandwidth is because it takes over certain functions, according to Sekar.

"We have implemented the inverse multiplexing capability within the chip, as opposed to waiting for the system to implement it," he said.

Using VDSL standards, the chipset can support speeds up to 52 mbps downstream, allowing for up to three video channels, as well as multiple voice and high-speed data channels, at 1,000 feet. As such, it is ideal for MTU links, "but when you go for central-office deployment, it is more like 30 to 35 mpbs," Sekar acknowledged.

There aren't likely to be any VDSL deployments in the U.S. until the second half of 2003, said Sekar, though cable's move into telephony has put more pressure on the telcos.

"Instead of coming out and saying, 'Yeah, we feel the pressure and we are doing something about it,' they are quietly pushing their equipment suppliers to go build a VDSL card and bring it to them," Sekar said. "We are working with all of those equipment vendors in developing the VDSL card."

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