Delivers Lucrative New IP Services with Cisco ONS 15454 SDH Multiservice Provisioning Platform
Soul Pattinson Telecommunications (SPT), based in Newcastle, Australia and founded in 1962 as a broadcast TV provider, has grown to become the second-largest regional telecommunications service provider in Australia. With 180 points of presence (POPs) along the country's east coast, SPT delivers digital TV and Internet access to residential customers and IP virtual private networks (VPNs), high-speed Internet access, and data storage services to business customers.
SPT is unique among Australian telecommunications providers--it has been profitable since 2000. During that time, the company has enjoyed a 300-percent increase in its stock price.
SPT has taken advantage of the network efficiency and scalability of Cisco® Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology and, later in the network's evolution, of the bandwidth efficiency of the Cisco ONS 15454 SDH multiservice platforms. The Cisco ONS 15454s have dramatically increased the amount of data SPT can transport across its resource-constrained SDH network. This has allowed SPT to avoid making significant capital investments to rebuild the entire infrastructure. The platforms also allow SPT to configure and deploy services 25 percent faster than with the company's earlier network and to deliver more types of services including time-division multiplexing (TDM), Ethernet, and soon, dense wave-division multiplexing (DWDM) services.
Since its founding, SPT's network has been a Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH)-based microwave infrastructure. When it began to transition itself into a telecommunications service provider, SPT decided to upgrade its network to deliver digital video rather than analog to improve its network efficiency. At the time, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) was the widely accepted technology of choice. But this option proved to be ineffective because the ATM components were difficult to integrate. ATM also did not provide the level of service availability desired for a network of this type. An additional consideration was ATM's inability to deliver IP services from the same platform, which was a disadvantage when customers said they wanted fully integrated IP solutions.
"ATM couldn't support the newer interfaces we needed to meet the growing demand for new IP services," says Steve Legge, director of engineering at SPT. "We began talking to Cisco not only about digital video but also about using IP to deliver services such as Ethernet that our customers were demanding."
MPLS ELIMINATES LAYER OF COMPLEXITY
To accomplish both objectives, Cisco recommended MPLS for SPT's core network to distribute digital TV and to support Ethernet services. After only a one-month trial, SPT was convinced.
"MPLS was fantastic," says Legge. "It delivered excellent quality of service, handling both jitter and latency very well. Fast reroute was critical to ensure the availability of the digital video services. And it interfaced with the microwave equipment from day one."
SPT was also finding that demand for IP services was growing and with MPLS it was able to converge services and remove the ATM layer entirely. This eliminated an entire layer of complexity in the network and has contributed to lower capital and operating expenses.
"We were also trying to develop an IP VPN product but this was a new area for us," adds Legge. "Cisco helped us tremendously with the Cisco Joint Marketing program, which showed us how to take it to market. It helped us cut off months of development time and deliver a packaged, marketable solution. We are currently the only regional telco offering Ethernet services to our customers."
At the time, SPT's network was also the first MPLS video transmission network in the world.
Today, half of SPT's 180 points of presence (POPs) are MPLS-enabled. In these POPs, SPT has installed Cisco 7500 and 7600 series routers as the core switching routers. Cisco 7200, 3700, or 3600 series routers act as the provider edge routers and provide connectivity to customer sites.
But while MPLS was delivering many benefits to SPT, the company continued to deploy traditional SDH add/drop multiplexers (ADMs) in its POPs. As customer demand grew for IP VPNs, digital TV, and high-speed Internet access, SPT determined that it needed much greater efficiency from its resource-constrained SDH microwave network. Otherwise, it would need to make significant capital investments to rebuild the entire network.
Finally, the lack of support for Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet on the ADMs meant SPT needed separate platforms. The result was more cost and complexity to deliver these increasingly important services.
BUILDING ON CISCO WITH NEXT-GENERATION OPTICAL SOLUTIONS
To solve these limitations, SPT built upon its Cisco MPLS infrastructure by deploying seven Cisco ONS 15454 SDH platforms in various POPs. This added dramatic new bandwidth efficiency and critical new capabilities. SPT configured them with STM-4, STM-1, E1 and Ethernet modules. The Cisco ONS 15454 SDH platforms, which replaced the company's existing, single-function ADMs, provide the interface between the STM-4 connections from the long-haul SDH radio network into STM-1 and Ethernet connections for local delivery of services (Figure 1). Most significantly, the Cisco ONS 15454 SDH nodes provide fast reroute for the SPT digital TV services over MPLS within SPT's core backbone network. SPT also deployed Cisco Transport Manager to enable fast service deployment via point-and-click provisioning.
The Cisco ONS 15454 SDH Platform Interface
The Cisco ONS 15454 SDH platforms enable SPT to deliver more services per megabit of bandwidth across a single pipe than with the earlier versions of SDH equipment. By combining IP data technology for Ethernet and traditional TDM/SDH in the same platform over the same connection, the Cisco ONS 15454 SDH can optimize the delivery of more services over the same amount of bandwidth.
"Our challenge was how to fit more diverse services down a constrained resource," says Legge. "The Cisco ONS 15454 excels at this because it converges the services at the SDH layer. We no longer need more costly packet-over-SONET (POS) interfaces on our routers but can use native Ethernet, which is less costly. We estimate a 20- to 25-percent average capital expense savings through this efficiency and elimination of extra components."
Also important to SPT is that the Cisco ONS 15454 SDH fits transparently with the existing MPLS network, providing greater reliability for digital TV through MPLS fast reroute. This allows the network to reroute in submilliseconds, much better than with the legacy SDH platforms.
SPT realized other savings with the ease of configuration of the Cisco ONS 15454 SDH solution. "We estimate a 15-percent reduction in the time needed to provision services, from design to delivery," says Legge. "It takes us only half a day from the time we take a Cisco ONS 15454 out of the box until it is fully configured."
The increased speed of configuration and lower operating expense are so compelling that SPT is planning to gradually replace all of its existing legacy SDH network elements with the multiservice Cisco ONS 15454 SDH platforms.
With the Cisco network foundation in place, SPT is now looking to use the Cisco ONS 15454 SDH solution to add more services such as voice over IP (VoIP) and DWDM capability with the newer Cisco ONS 15454 Multiservice Transport Platform (MSTP). The MSTP integrates DWDM amplifiers, wavelength cards, and other DWDM technology to enable delivery of 10 Gigabit Ethernet services. These high-bandwidth services are of increasing interest to both government and education sites. SPT is now in discussion with many of these customers who were considering building networks themselves but are excited about the ability of SPT to provide the services for them and to manage them.
"The big benefits of the Cisco ONS 15454 SDH platforms are integration and flexibility," says Legge. "We can build out the network for one application today but then we can easily upgrade it, allowing us to take advantage of lucrative new business opportunities. It's opening up many opportunities for us that simply didn't exist before."