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MTS Allstream’s CTO

Chief Technology Officer Paul Frizado discussed a range of topics in a recent interview with CNS -- from lessons learned at MetroNet to the rise of convergence and why staying ahead of customer demands is absolutely critical for a carrier.


May 1, 2006  


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CNS: As the CTO, you are accountable for the network architecture, planning, engineering and technology development. What are the issues that keep you up at night?

Frizado: We deliver a vast array of services and products both to consumer and enterprise customers across the country. The service sets we have pretty well cover everything — voice, data, the Internet, wireless and even television — and I see many new technologies and innovations and they continue to come at me quickly and they are literally hitting every portion of our network.

We are finally seeing convergence come our way — from applications, services and right down to the network. I see a lot of the new technologies and innovation that hold great promise and as a result, they will not only help solve the issues I might have with the network, but also provide services and solutions that MTS-Allstream can offer our customer base.

The reality is that I get just as many that don’t offer much. The challenge is to find those few needles in a haystack that will actually make a difference and deliver value. Missing the good ones can at times keep us all up at night, but that challenge is also what drives professionals like myself.

CNS: You were once responsible for MetroNet Communications’s first initial network technology rollout and the evolution of its national voice and data networks. What lessons did you learn from that massive initiative?

Frizado: When I went to MetroNet, it was the first national CLEC back in ’97 and we were charting totally new ground and new areas. We had a goal to build a network quickly for voice and data and as a result, had to write our own rules as we went. We had to be focused and innovative and it was incredible what could be accomplished.

One memorable achievement was the construction of our national broadband network. We assembled a small team of five individuals with a mandate to build a national 10 Gigabit Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing network.

Within five months of starting the project we were carrying traffic from Seattle to Toronto. It’s amazing what can be done with five individuals. As long as you have a focused goal, you really do not need a lot of people to make something like this happen.

CNS: What ultimately lead MTS Allstream to develop Canada’s first IP/MPLS network?

Frizado: We have a long history in MTS Allstream of providing advanced data networking. In the late 1990s we had a frame network with a customer base that had some of the largest networks around.

With that come its challenges. When you have large customers with a connections-oriented network, managing and provisioning them can get very complex.

At the same time we saw the movement to IP and the advantages for IP VPN would have for our customers.

We saw MPLS and IP VPN as a means of solving an N-squared problem of large networks if you wanted to have any location communicate with any location.

Technology comes quick, adoption takes a bit more time and things mature over time.

Six years later, we have added enhancements such as dynamic class of service supporting applications like VoIP along with higher networking speeds.

CNS: You announced in February the selection of the Cisco CRS-1 Carrier Routing System as part of an expansion to the IP/MPLS backbone network. Why Cisco and when will you go live with it?

Frizado: This is something we had been working on for some time. Today, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that IP and MPLS are the heart of everyone’s network — not only carriers, but also customers. Organizations are looking for higher capacity and higher availability networks to support their next-generation services.

Staying ahead of customer demands is critical and we were looking for a next-generation IP/MPLS platform that would provide the capabilities our customers are demanding and a platform that could deliver that today and for many years into the future.

The CRS is next-generation technology with survivability and carrier-class type features.

We are currently in the process of deploying this network across the country. It is going to be a 10-Gigabit backbone interconnecting the CRS-1 routers.

We are looking to complete the entire network, which will be the largest CRS-1 deployment in Canada, by year-end.

CNS: MTS Allstream began deploying Hatteras Networks HN4000s and HN400s last summer to support an aggressive rollout of Metro Ethernet services to business customers. Where are you now in this initiative?

Frizado: It’s all about bandwidth. This initiative was started when one of our major customers was looking for higher-speed Ethernet access. The goal was to get it without the cost of deploying fiber everywhere. When you have many locations it gets expensive to have fiber everywhere and we needed to leverage other technologies like those offered by Hatteras Networks that leverages existing copper loops.

We have since expanded the use of this Ethernet access technology to deliver up to 10-Megabits for many of our services including LAN-e (Metro Ethernet), BusIP

( IP VPN) and dedicated Internet.

We have most recently extended the use of this technology to link some of our 1xEV-DO equipped Cell sites to our backbone data network. Traditional T-1 access to these sites is not enough for this broadband wireless access and this is a great option for sites not economically served by fiber.

CNS: Gartner estimates that in the next three years, bandwidth requirements for central data applications will grow by 30% annually and Internet-like applications will see a 50% per year growth. What do you offer organizations to help manage that growth?

Frizado: When it comes to bandwidth, I don’t think there is any one of our customers that is not coming back to us and asking for more. The demand is increasing and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. This is why we are deploying a large scale IP/MPLS core capable of scaling into the terabits.

The key here is to get high-speed Ethernet access to the customers. We offer high-speed Ethernet access from 10 Mbps to 1 Gig and beyond for our layer 2 Ethernet service as well as layer 3 MPLS and Internet services. This allows a customer to have a simple physical Ethernet access and allows them to grow to the physical port speed.

CNS: In terms of your wireless strategy, how critical is the 1xEV-DO network going forward?

Frizado: There is no question that this is a key component. Customers want the ability to move around and not be tethered to an office or home, while still enjoying the same type of broadband experience.

1xEV-DO is a great way of doing it. You get a broadband connection with great blanket coverage and the added benefit of mobility. We see the initial users being business customers requiring fast access to their corporate networks and the Internet. 1xEV-DO will also provide the bandwidth required for consumer focused multimedia applications like mobile video and interactive gaming.

CNS: Further to that, how do you see MTS Allstream’s wireless technology strategy ultimately unfolding?

Frizado: As 1xEV-DO evolves, it will provide even greater symmetrical bandwidth than we have today. A lot of people these days are talking about download, but if I’m on the road I want to upload or send content just as quickly.

We are going to see a lot of advancements happen in this area and it does not revolve just around mobility.

Wireless is one of many network technologies we use to connect and deliver services to our customer. We see other wireless broadband like Wi-Fi and WI-Max having the ability to complement and integrate with 1xEV-DO.

CNS: Your digital ink initiative is intriguing. How did that
evolve and what are the current and future plans in this space?

Frizado: Digital ink was first introduced in mid-2004. It took a digital ink pen and special paper that allowed us to collect, integrate and manage forms-based data.

We use the term Write Once, Capture, Convert and Integrate. This was developed in our Professional Services group, which saw the need to help some organizations become more productive.

There has been a lot of interest in the technology and we have a number of customers engaged in various trial stages.