Switch architecture changes on WorldCom agenda

WorldCom Inc.’s chief technology officer on Wednesday detailed the company’s plans for improving its network backbone and product offerings in 2001, including changes in switch architecture and the continued use of wave division multiplexing to reach performance milestones.

WorldCom’s network has increased to a capacity of 20 million voice calls thanks to wave division multiplexing (WDM), and by the end of this year it could be carrying as many as 80 million voice calls, chief technology officer Fred Briggs said during an executive forum for reporters and analysts at the company’s offices here.

“We did that with wave division multiplexing, and in fact earlier this month announced putting a terabit on a fiber pair,” Briggs said. “Operating at 160 channels of wave division multiplexing at 10 Gigabit, we now have a terabit in the backbone network. We will go from OC192 to OC768 and may even trial this year OC1536.”

WorldCom also this year plans to make its network into a true optical backbone by converting “cross connects” to optical, he said.

The company’s model for switching also will change to global distributed switch architecture, Briggs said. WorldCom has been tied to vendor cycles in the delivery of products because much of the feature function is in the switch.

“In the new distributed architecture all the feature function, all the call control, is outside of the switch,” Briggs said. “So our development of feature function, services, call control is done independent of what we get from the vendors.”

Briggs also said the first piece of the new switching model is a product WorldCom calls SoftSwitch, which handles dial-up Internet traffic, still a huge growth business for WorldCom, Briggs said. SoftSwitch handles dial-up Internet traffic more cost-effectively than Class 5 switches and has the capability to do voice-over-IP (Internet Protocol), should WorldCom choose to do that.

WorldCom has deployed seven of the switches in the U.S. , including in Chicago, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, and will have a total of 11 deployed in major U.S. cities by the end of February, Briggs said. One SoftSwitch has been deployed in the Netherlands, and five more will be added in Europe, including in Germany, France and the U by the end of the first quarter of 2001.

“This is not pie in the sky. This is stuff that we are deploying today,” Briggs said.

Some of WorldCom’s other plans for calendar year 2001, according to Briggs, include:

– In the second quarter, the Multiservices Switch, which handles Frame Relay, ATM (Asychronous Transfer Mode), IP (Internet protocol), voice and video all on one platform with separate feature functions and call controls. It will be deployed beginning in the second quarter initially outside the United States.

– In the fourth quarter, the convergence of voice and data on enterprise networks. This will result in more than just cost reductions because WorldCom, using a SIP (session initiation protocol) server, also will offer a set of value-added features such as dynamic registration and universal messaging.

– In the second quarter, the company will offer e-business toolkits for building e-commerce Web sites, including the capability of building voice portals, which allow users to surf the Web using a regular telephone and voice commands.

– In the fourth quarter of 2001 or first quarter of 2002, WorldCom plans to pursue dynamic storage and edge computing initiatives. The company plans to time-share computers for storage and data processing “in a huge way around the world.”

– Web call centre services that can field not only voice calls, but e-mail, chat, faxes, paging and other types of messaging.

WorldCom, in Jackson, Miss., can be reached at http://www.wcom.com/.