The City of Windsor, Ont. last month announced it has expanded its municipal communications network with the addition of gigabit Ethernet trunks and an auxiliary DSL network.

The municipality’s new fibre network touches more than 60 city-owned locations, including the fire department, public libraries and City Hall.

Windsor spokesperson, Harry Turnbull said the city is powering its Gig-E network through the use of a BlackDiamond core switch provided by Santa Clara, Calif.’s Extreme Networks. The city has also placed a number of Extreme’s Summit stackable switches in various locations, which connect via fibre back to City Hall. By establishing gigabit trunks with aggregated 100Mb links to servers, Turnbull said the city will be able to go ahead with some applications, such as virtual private networks, that were unable to work with the city’s previously low bandwidth capability.

Additionally, IP-based video conferencing is also driving their need for improved infrastructure, the city said. A video system could be implemented by the end of the year, and stems from a system already in place at the University of Windsor.

Though the city’s downtown locations have already been connected via the city’s own fibre, some of the city’s other sites were connected via copper cable, at ISDN or even lower speeds, Turnbull said.

Along with the ramp-up to Gig-E in the downtown core, Windsor’s farther-flung buildings will now be connected by the city’s new DSL network.

Turnbull said Windsor has established four of its own DSL points-of-presence (POPs) in the city, using Bell Canada’s local loops and Paradigm’s equipment and modems. The city is using a combination of HDSL and ADSL standards.

Turnbull said the city chose Extreme to power its fibre network because of the quality of service and low price its products offered. Cisco and Cabletron, as well as Extreme, originally responded to Windsor’s request for proposal process.

“We don’t have a lot of resources so we needed something that was going to be easy to set up,” Turnbull recalled of the city’s selection process. “By reference check, we determined that Extreme was much easier to manage. And that’s what we’re finding out during the install.”

Extreme has already sold switching products for metropolitan area networks (MANs) in the Vancouver suburbs of Richmond and Surrey, as well as in Lethbridge, Alta., according to the company.

“There appears to have been lately the build-out of more of these municipal fibre networks,” noted Dan McLean, an analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto. He said gigabit Ethernet seems to be finding a particular niche in the MAN market, likely due to the cost savings it offers over ATM.

McLean said concerns over the quality of packet data transfer communications can often be overcome either by over-provisioning bandwidth or by managing network bandwidth in a more efficient manner.

Extreme said it has gone with the latter choice in setting up Windsor’s network.

“All of Extreme’s products provide bandwidth-by-the-slice, which manages minimum and maximum allocations on a number of traffic characteristics,” said Todd Holley, a spokesperson for the company. “This allows the service provider to provision specific amounts of bandwidth per customer or application. This can be extended through the whole of the metro space using policy/provisioning tools or with DiffServ packet marking. This functionality delivers the same services as a connection-oriented network.”