Seeking to promote the use of optical Ethernet technology in metropolitan networks, several networking companies have banded together in a forum, the group announced last month in a conference call from San Francisco.

Metropolitan area networks connect smaller local area networks in a city into a single larger network. Ethernet is easier to administrate and cheaper to maintain than the SONET systems frequently used to transfer data in a metro network. This makes the new technology attractive for network architects.

The nonprofit Metro Ethernet Forum, composed of 37 incumbent local exchange carriers like Verizon Communications Inc., service providers and other networking companies, launched in May and met for the first time at the SuperComm telecommunication convention in Atlanta on June 6, said forum chairman Ron Young, who also is the founder and chief marketing officer of optical networking company Yipes Communications Inc.

Rapid increases in the use and interest in gigabit Ethernet for metro networks led to the group’s creation, he said. “Gig-E is the most written about technology in the last six months,” Young said.

The MEF intends to enhance the public awareness of Gigabit Ethernet through advocacy at trade shows and a public Web site. The group’s leaders also intend to press standing technical groups to address metro Ethernet issues as they arise, said Nan Chen, president of the forum and director of product marketing for optical Ethernet company Atrica Inc.

The group will initiate technical work only when other groups won’t. “We don’t intend to compete with existing organizations,” Chen said. “We’re going to exist as a liaison.”

The MEF, in Newport Beach, Calif, can be contacted at (949) 250-7188 or at