What’s a wavelength? It’s one color or lambda on a fiber optic strand. That’s right, fiber optic lines have more than one light beam running through them. Each color represents a different wavelength or frequency of laser light. Because they are different colors, these light beams will mix within the optical fiber strand but one will not interfere with another. It’s like they are completely different pairs of wires in a copper bundle or channels on a cable system.
Why have multiple wavelengths? It’s a matter of efficiency. The cost of the equipment to transmit and receive multiple lambdas is far less than the cost to trench or fly hundreds or thousands of miles of fiber optic cable. Each cable has multiple strands. Each strand has multiple wavelengths. Because of this, each fiber installation has massive bandwidth capability available for commercial use.
The technology that makes wavelengths possible is called DWDM or Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing. The “dense” designation means that many wavelengths are loaded onto the fiber with close spacing between them. DWDM terminal equipment must have precise and stable control of the grid of light wavelengths on the fiber. There is an ITU (International Telecommunications Union) standard for this so that equipment is common for the industry. There can be as many as 160 channels or wavelengths, all in the infrared C and L bands, on each fiber strand.
What carriers who own fiber assets are doing is offering entire wavelengths for lease to companies that need high levels of bandwidth. Integra Telecom is a good example of a company offering wavelength services on their metropolitan and long haul fiber optic network. One of the nice features of wavelengths is that you can pick your protocol. Integra offers traditional SONET Interface options of 2.5 Gbps and 10 Gbps. You can also get Ethernet Interface options of 1 GigE and 10 GigE.
What Integra is offering is called managed wavelength services. That differs from dark fiber, where you are responsible for all the terminal equipment on each end of the fiber, or unmanaged wavelengths where the carrier simply feeds a wavelength with the signals and perhaps interface modules that you supply. A managed solution means that Integra is responsible for providing the terminal equipment and monitoring the network 24/7 with surveillance and network alarms from their Network Operations Center (NOC).
What you get is a highly reliable, high bandwidth, low latency point to point optical wavelength service for long haul or metropolitan connections. Integra operates a 5,000 mile high speed long haul network with metro services in many major cities of the Western United States and connections to Chicago, New York City, Ashburn, VA, and Dallas. Within the 35 markets across 11 Western states, they operate a 3,000 mile metro access network that includes more than 1900 fiber-fed buildings. If your business is located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah or Washington, you can benefit from the Integra best-in-class fiber optic network, including wavelength services.
What types of businesses are ideal for wavelength services? Companies needing business continuity and disaster recovery solutions, Ethernet transport and optical storage connectivity or data storage connectivity. If you have more than one data center, chances are you need the “big pipes” that wavelengths can provide.
Can your business do better using wavelengths than what you have now for telecom services? Get competitive quotes for managed wavelength services from Integra and other high performance competitive carriers to see for yourself.
Note: Image of light spectrum from prisms courtesy of Marcellus Wallace on Wikimedia Commons.