FiberLight and Ciena Help Leading Wireless Operators Manage Soaring Data Services Demand


(ATLANTA, GA) – As demand for mobile data services soars, managing backhaul traffic is a growing challenge for wireless operators. Leading U.S. network provider FiberLight offers a long-term solution by bringing fiber directly to wireless cell towers.
In two major projects, FiberLight is deploying Ciena’s Packet Networking Solution, helping operators replace slow legacy T1 connections and bringing fiber to nearly 450 cell towers in total. The backhaul solutions, built on Ciena’s OPn network architecture design principles, are simple, streamlined and scalable, with fewer router locations and equipment than traditional networks. Carrier Ethernet capabilities, combined with Ciena’s low-touch service activation and scaling, make it simple to deliver bandwidth on demand for customers.

The FiberLight and Ciena infrastructure is future-proofing the operators’ backhaul networks for the long term, making it possible to scale seamlessly to 1G per cell tower and beyond. Additionally, the Ciena core and edge equipment offers low total cost of ownership and long-term returns on investment, helping the operators maximize their profitability.


Sales of smartphones and tablets continue to increase by 85 percent every year.1 Nearly 100 million U.S. consumers now regularly email, text, browse, and download on their mobile devices.2 This mobile data revolution means many U.S. wireless networks are now running at 80 percent of their full capacity, causing backhaul traffic management to become a major challenge. Leading U.S. network provider FiberLight provides next-generation optical transport solutions—including Ethernet, wavelengths, IP, and dark fiber—that help organizations manage rapid traffic growth. FiberLight’s $1 billion, 500,000-mile network serves 40 of the nation’s 50 highest-bandwidth users, spanning Georgia, Texas, Florida, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

“Since 2005, we’ve been providing fiber-optic transport solutions for carriers, government organizations and large enterprises,” says Joe Patton, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at FiberLight. “However, we recently began helping wireless operators meet the challenges of exploding backhaul traffic by bringing fiber all the way to their cell towers.”

When two major U.S. wireless operators wanted to increase their cell tower connectivity in 2011, FiberLight bid for the work.


Ciena’s Packet Networking Solution supports two major initiatives for FiberLight, helping its mobile operator customers replace strained legacy T1 connections by bringing fiber to 450 cell towers. FiberLight is leveraging Ciena’s 5410 and 5150 Service Aggregation Switches, as well as Ciena’s 3930, 3931 and 3960 Service Delivery Switches with subtending G.8032 Ethernet rings to provide increased network scalability and resilience for critical backhaul services.

Based on Ciena’s OPn network architecture design principles, the backhaul solutions are simple and streamlined, with fewer router locations and equipment than traditional networks. Ciena’s advanced network management solution provides low-touch service activation and scaling, and Carrier Ethernet capabilities make it simple to deliver bandwidth on demand for customers.

Fiber to the tower in West Texas

One leading U.S. wireless operator was using copper T1 lines, which were no longer enough to manage growing backhaul traffic. “They needed to increase their bandwidth at each tower to 100 Mb/s immediately, with the option to scale up rapidly in the future,” says Patton.

The operator chose FiberLight to deliver a dedicated, fiber-optic backhaul network, which will provide 100 Mb/s connectivity at 248 cell towers across West Texas. The solution is being built on 3,000 miles of new route fiber and will be powered by Ciena’s Packet Networking Solution—specifically the 3000 Family of products at the network edge.

“The operator’s backhaul traffic is likely to increase to 300 Mb/s or even 500 Mb/s per cell tower over the next two to three years, and to 1G at larger sites,” says Patton. “With the dark fiber and Ciena infrastructure in place, we can help the customer move from 100 Mb/s per tower to 1G seamlessly and cost-effectively.”

With a single, fully integrated platform for optical and Ethernet services, the FiberLight Network Operations Center (NOC) will have constant visibility of the customer’s new fiber network. “With Ciena, it’s simple for us to maintain and scale up the customer’s network,” says Patton. “We have effective, centralized tools for reporting on network performance, ensuring compliance with SLAs and helping us address issues before they impact service.”

Ciena will deploy, test, and turn up the network and provide a managed spares service, while FiberLight will be responsible for network management and maintenance for five years. “We will deliver a fully managed service initially, giving the customer the option to buy the network outright when it makes economic sense,” says Patton. “This kind of flexibility is great news for mobile operators in the current economic climate.”

Connecting 200 cell towers across four states

In another major project, FiberLight will replace T1 towers with a dedicated, fiber-optic backhaul network for a leading U.S. wireless operator. This will provide Ethernet connectivity at 200 cell towers in Texas, Washington, Maryland, and Florida, and seamlessly connect towers with six major aggregation sites.

Primarily utilizing FiberLight’s existing fiber network, the solution will be built on Ciena’s Packet Networking Solution. The infrastructure will provide 100 Mb/s connectivity to cell towers and 300-to-500 Mb/s links to each aggregation site initially, with the option to scale to 1G per tower when required.

“The scalable Ciena infrastructure is fully compliant with all Ethernet standards, which means we can integrate it with the operator’s existing infrastructure quickly and simply,” says Patton. “Scalability and compliance were key reasons why FiberLight and Ciena were such a good fit for the customer, and why they ultimately chose our solution.”


By bringing fiber to its towers with FiberLight and Ciena, the leading wireless carriers will assure their future success. Instead of making complex, ongoing changes to their networks to support new services and devices, they will be able to manage soaring bandwidth demands seamlessly and exploit emerging market opportunities.

“Because we’ve deployed fiber connections and Ciena infrastructure at the vast majority of towers, there will be no bandwidth restrictions or bottlenecks in the future,” says Patton. “With Ciena, we can help our customers scale up to 1G per tower quickly and easily with no need for additional equipment, and we can upgrade their core networks on demand to accommodate longer-term traffic growth.”

FiberLight believes Ciena equipment offers the lowest total cost of ownership for optical transport and Ethernet and delivers long-term returns on investment.

“As demand for wireless data services increases, the cost of services for end-customers is actually falling,” says Patton. “Because Ciena equipment offers extremely competitive pricing and great returns on investment over the medium- and long-term, it helps our customers manage the shifting economics of service delivery and maximize profitability.”

The close, strategic partnership between FiberLight and Ciena is delivering the best business outcomes for customers. Patton says, “Ciena has done a great job of educating us about its products and supporting our customer engagements to ensure success. We’ve benefitted greatly from their strong go-to-market strategy, pre-sales support, and technical training.”

About FiberLight

FiberLight is a premier provider of mission-critical, high performance networking services including Ethernet, Wavelengths, and IP, SONET, and Dark Fiber optical transport network solutions. Solutions are provided to telecom carriers, government, enterprise, content providers and web-centric businesses. FiberLight wholly owns its 500,000 fiber mile network in key growth areas and offers robust metro networks in 23 metros within Georgia, Florida, Washington, D.C., Texas, Virginia and Maryland, as well as Wide Area Networking options at layer 1, 2 and 3 to major commercial hubs throughout the country. Visit FiberLight at www.fiberlight.com.