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Colt enlists Cisco to make its network ready for 5G backhaul

Fiber connectivity provider Colt Technology Services is partnering with Cisco to enhance its proposition for the emerging 5G backhaul and fronthaul market.

Colt’s VP of products, Peter Coppens, said the operator was using Cisco technology, as well as equipment from optical vendor Ciena, to add more capability and flexibility to its Colt IQ Network, in anticipation of the needs of 5G MNOs. The Colt IQ Network connects more than 800 data centers and thousands of fiber-connected enterprises round the world, and the whole system is controlled by IQ Network software.

First, Colt invested in Ciena equipment for optical upgrades, and it is now attending to the packet side of the network, working with Cisco. “We started with our historically dominant regions in Europe,” Coppens told FierceTelecom. “Then we rolled out to Asia, which is getting more important. And then last summer we expanded into the US.”

The latest phase is to implement Cisco’s programmable segment routing and Ethernet VPN (EVPN) technologies, with a specific focus on 5G xHaul. Segment routing is designed to make the network more flexible and scalable because there is no need to maintain a per-application state and per-flow state.

And the EVPN solution can reduce the need for expensive fiber expansion in some areas, by enabling the sharing of dark fiber.

“The normal way to do backhaul is to go with dark fiber to a 4G antenna and then deliver connectivity to a mobile network operator,” said Coppens in the same interview.

“Cell tower owners were asking for dark fiber, but it’s a dedicated circuit. To keep the investment reasonable, more MNOs will want to share locations. And tower companies want to impose one infrastructure and set up as many MNOs on them as possible. Ethernet, instead of dark fiber, is simpler to share and still be able to give a class of service to different providers and different slices of the customers.”

“We have worked closely with Cisco to design a network architecture that is simple to operate, highly available, and capable of delivering the innovative network services that are required for 5G,” he concluded.

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