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Why Carrier Ethernet for Africa?

11 May, 2013
ICT Africa Writer
May 11, 2013

Vertical Systems Group, a network analysis company based in Massachusetts, USA, has projected that the world’s carrier Ethernet services market will reach $49.4 billion by 2017. While there is a widespread deployment of carrier Ethernet in the world, only a few African telecommunication operators and service providers have deployed the technology in their networks. Many more operators in Africa have considered deploying carrier Ethernet but there oftentimes is some hesitation to migrate to the technology. In this article, we attempt to highlight the advantages of carrier Ethernet to African business clients, and hopefully persuade more operators and service providers to embrace the technology for their benefit and the benefit of the clients that they serve.

If you are reading this article from the office, a hotel or any other business setting, there is a finite probability that your computer is connected to an RJ45 Ethernet port in the wall. Ethernet, a physical and data link layer technology, was developed primarily for local area networks (LANs) in the 1980s. Since then, the technology has been widely deployed, became very cost effective and has evolved from data rates of 10Mbps to 100Gbps today. In addition to LANs, Ethernet has been widely deployed in storage area networks (SANs).

Carrier Ethernet is the extension of Ethernet services into the metropolitan area network (MAN) and wide area network (WAN). By deploying Ethernet in the MAN and WAN, operators can leverage the maturity, cost effectiveness and scalability of Ethernet in the MAN and WAN.

As a cost sensitive market, Africa can definitely benefit from the cost effectiveness of metro Ethernet. Due to its broad usage in a wide range of networking equipment, the Ethernet interface has become very inexpensive. By deploying carrier Ethernet in the WAN and MAN, will be able to seamlessly connect clients who already have Ethernet based LANs in their offices. In addition, it becomes easy and cost efficient for operators to connect clients’ remote offices.

Scalability is one of the biggest motivations for operators to migrate to carrier Ethernet for MANs and WANs. Imagine that you were setting up an office and needed a business class, dedicated, highly reliable and cost effective connection to the Internet and to your other remote offices. Chances are that your telecommunication operator using legacy technologies will offer you an E1 (2Mbps), E3 (34Mbps) or an SMT1 (155Mbps). If, like many other small and medium size businesses in Africa, you require more than 2Mbs but less than 34Mbps (say 5Mbps) to get you started; you may be forced to choose between 2Mbps and 34Mbps.

In carrier Ethernet, your entire organization’s local area network connects to one carrier Ethernet port in the office and seamlessly connect to other remote offices connected by your service provider’s carrier Ethernet. You could request practically any bandwidth which can easily be remotely upgraded in small increments, such as 1Mbps.

Let’s take Telkom South Africa which offers both legacy services and metro Ethernet services, for example. If you need 5Mbps of dedicated service from Telkom, you have a choice of an E1 or E3 service on their legacy network. If you are lucky enough to be in an area served by Telkom’s metro Ethernet network, you can subscribe to exactly 5Mbps that you require. Better yet, the bandwidth can be upgraded remotely and expediently in 1Mbps increments, making it easy to increase your bandwidth as your bandwidth requirements change.

For more information about metro Ethernet, point your browser to the Metro Ethernet Forum.


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