City opts for Optical Ethernet

City of Roanoke

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To ensure that their city had enough bandwidth for future security and e-government needs, officials in Roanoke, Va., have opted to run tried-and-true Ethernet over the city's optical fiber network in place of its old Token Ring system.

Not only does that provide a cost-effective solution for future demands, it also will enable other things such as a citywide voice-over-IP service that might not have been possible otherwise, according to city executives.

The Optical Ethernet network, which is being supplied by Nortel Networks Ltd., is already delivering basic enterprise applications such as e-mail to government employees, said Joe Slone, Roanoke's director of technology.

The next phase will be integrating voice services for the government, which will link about 15 remote sites around the city into the optical ring.

"We are pretty heavily integrated in the public safety area already," Slone said. "In the future, we also want to tie such things as mug shots and fingerprints [into the network], both of which generate high bandwidth traffic. And we see [geographic information systems] taking off for emergency management and mobile data reporting."

The Optical Ethernet network "positions us for the future" and allows the city to expand bandwidth to as much as it needs, Slone said.

Optical Ethernet allows for connections of 10 megabits/sec, 100 megabits/sec and 1 gigabit/sec, said Elaine Jolley, a Nortel senior manager. It also provides for centralization of servers and storage, which is an increasingly important need for local governments.

"The key is certainly access to fiber," Jolley said, "but since Sept. 11[, 2001] another big thing has become cities wanting their own network infrastructure because of the need for better security."

The company's Optical Ethernet solution, which Nortel already has installed in a number of other cities, is a way for municipalities to do this and not have to rely on major carriers to provide much more expensive bandwidth for them, she said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.


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