Gigabit Ethernet to take off in 2005

Gigabit Ethernet will evolve from a corporate network backbone into a technology of choice for service providers seeking to build...

Gigabit Ethernet will evolve from a corporate network backbone into a technology of choice for service providers seeking to build relatively simple and inexpensive metropolitan and wide area networks.

That is one of the findings made in a report released on 31 October by market research firm Pioneer Consulting.

In addition to offering service providers cost savings that may be passed on to customers, Gigabit Ethernet will enable carriers to deliver just the bandwidth a customer needs, right when they need it, said Doug McEuen, the report's author.

"Carriers can provision a network connection within minutes, instead of months like SONet [today's commonly used Synchronous Optical Network technology]," said McEuen.

"As a consumer, I can call up and ask my carrier to give me twice as much bandwidth between 2pm and 4pm, because I'm having a videoconference."

By the end of 2005, service providers and corporations will spend a total of $30.5bn (£21bn) a year on equipment for 1Gbps Gigabit Ethernet, and $13.5bn on still-emerging 10-Gigabit Ethernet technology, said Pioneer.

The total $44bn represents cumulative growth of 856%, compared with estimated revenue of $4.6bn in 2001. The greater part of Gigabit Ethernet use in 2005 will be in service provider networks rather than corporate local area networks, McEuen said.

Worldwide sales of all Ethernet equipment - 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1Gbps and 10Gbps - will grow from $17.3bn to $145.2bn, said Pioneer. Much of that expansion will come from outside the US. The report predicts the US will represent 45% of the Gigabit Ethernet market in 2005, down from 80% in 2001.

The fastest growth in Gigabit Ethernet adoption will occur in Europe, McEuen said. With a large number of dense metropolitan areas and a large existing deployment of SONet rings, European service providers are likely to find Gigabit Ethernet an attractive and relatively easy upgrade.

Carriers in Asia will also adopt the technology rapidly, although not as fast as in Europe. Their large installed base of Frame Relay and ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) systems will be more difficult to replace with Gigabit Ethernet.

High-speed carrier networks in Latin America are just getting off the ground in many areas, and Gigabit Ethernet could leapfrog other technologies, McEuen said.

Although Gigabit Ethernet was not originally designed with the reliability needed by carrier networks, enhancements now being developed by several equipment vendors should make it more attractive to service providers.

Startups, as well as established vendors such as Cisco Systems, are working on features that would bring carrier-class reliability and predictability to Gigabit Ethernet-based services.

Some vendors already have trials of carrier-class Gigabit Ethernet underway with service providers, and full-scale roll-outs of these types of systems may come within a year, McEuen said.

In the meantime, a working group of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which governs the Ethernet standard, is working on standardising Resilient Packet Ring. Some equipment vendors are adopting a set of these enhancements.

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