colorful fiber optics image

Windstream Wholesale’s Intelligent Converged Optical Network (ICON) service, announced yesterday, will offer wholesale customers the ability to establish custom optical transport network (OTN) routes and extend their networks closer to the edge. Telecompetitor talked with Art Nichols, Windstream vice president of network architecture and technology, to get more details about the offering.

“Increasingly, traffic driven from the edge of the network wants to stay near the edge,” Nichols explained.

Traditionally, optical transport network (OTN) traffic has been primarily for long-haul routes but as computing has been driven to the edge, data center and 5G traffic “wants to remain at the edge,” Nichols noted.

“We’re trying to drive a high-capacity open system deeper and deeper into the network,” he said.

The ICON network is based on a disaggregated network architecture that enables Windstream to mix optics from one vendor with line systems from a different vendor, Nichols explained.

“The benefit it gives us is we are no longer tied into the technology curve of a single vendor,” he said. “We’re able to adopt the best of breed.”

Windstream ICON

As part of the Windstream ICON offering, wholesale and enterprise customers will be able to purchase 10 Gbps, 100 Gbps or 400 Gbps wavelengths. Customers will gain a high level of visibility into the network but will not be able to make changes to their service directly.

“We have developed on-demand capability internally, but not many customers could make use of it,” commented Nichols. Accordingly, he said, “we haven’t been aggressive in productizing it.”

Customers for the ICON offering are likely to include financial companies and content providers, as well as traditional wholesale customers such as other network operators.

Other aspects of Windstream ICON service:

  • Flexgrid, which enables Windstream to establish optical channels of different widths to meet bandwidth requirements of specific routes or customers
  • Mixed add/drop capabilities, which enable a common optical network to be configured with various topologies such as ring, full mesh or point-to-point
  • C and L band support, which increases capacity in comparison with traditional equipment that only uses the C band

Nichols sees ICON as a step toward spectrum services that would expose a portion of the underlying line systems to other carriers, enterprises and content providers to enable them to light services on their own.

Windstream Wholesale is leveraging ICON technology for new West Coast routes, including from Hillsboro and Portland to Sacramento, and from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

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