Market hype is running ahead of reality in the market for the next generation network technology, WDM (wave division multiplexing).
This will use optical technology to increase the capacity and performance of carrier class networks, but researchers at Ovum have urged telcos to implement WDM with caution.
In his latest report, entitled 'WDM: Global strategies for next generation networks', Ovum analyst Barry Flanigan said: "The main driver for WDM today is the need to increase network capacity and relieve fibre network congestion. However, WDM is also part of a much bigger story: the transition of telecomms networks towards 'all optical networking', which will have profound implications on the way in which the next generation of telco networks evolves."
In the past three years WDM has been a saviour to many telcos because it enables operators to increase the capacity of their fibre optic cables without having to make new installations.
But now some equipment vendors, including high profile Ciena, are touting the all optical network, which enables carriers' IP routers to connect directly to the WDM layer. This would help telcos meet the expected data deluge but puts a question mark over the future of synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) technology, which telcos, including BT, are currently spending millions of dollars implementing.
SDH has been around since the end of the 1980s and can carry data at up to four times the speed of other traditional fibre networks. Guy Powell, Emea managing director at Ciena, one aggressive proponent of the all optical network, said the company is looking to "reduce the reliance on the SDH layer", though SDH will still be required for voice communications.
Ciena demonstrated the ability to connect directly to an IP router at the Supercomm show in June and Powell said the technology could be commercially available in the second quarter of next year.
Flanigan said the idea of the all optical network is "inevitable" but questions the speed with which it will come about. "As WDM starts to evolve throughout the networks, the immaturity of the technology has become a major issue. There is a great deal of hype about the capabilities of products and size of the market among equipment vendors, but near term expectations must be kept in perspective," he added.
Independent suppliers of WDM include Ciena and Pirelli, but larger players such as Lucent and Ericsson are also heading into the market.
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