Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH or SONET

© Mercury Communications Ltd. - August 1992 SDH, the great survivor, 2007 2007 network writings My TechnologyInside blog

The introduction of any new technology is usually preceded by much hyperbole and rhetoric. In many cases, the revolution predicted never gets beyond this. In many more, it never achieves the wildly over optimistic growth forecasted by market specialists - home computing and the paperless office to name but two. It is fair to say, however, by whatever method you use to evaluate a new technology, that synchronous digital transmission does not fall into this category. The fundamental benefits to be gained from its deployment by PTOs seem to be so overwhelming that, bar a catastrophe, the bulk of today's plesiochronous transmission systems used for high speed backbone links will be pushed aside in the next few years. To quote Dataquest:, "It has been claimed by many industry experts that the impact of synchronous technology will equal that of the transition from analogue to digital technology or from copper to fibre optic based transmission." For the first time in telecommunications history there will be a world-wide, uniform and seamless transmission standard for service delivery. Synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) provides the capability to send data at multi-gigabit rates over today's single-mode fibreoptics links. This first issue of Technology Watch looks at synchronous digital transmission and evaluates its potential impact. Following issues of TW will look at customer oriented broad-band services that will ride on the back of SDH deployment by PTOs. These will include:     Frame relay SMDS (Switched Multi-Megabit Data Service) ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) High speed LAN services such as FDDI

Figure 1 shows the relationship between these technologies and services.

graphic layout. synchronous digital transmission will not take hold overnight. Users who extensively use PCs and workstations with LANs. However. The first to feel the benefits will be the PTOs themselves. CAD and remote database applications are now looking to the telecommunication service suppliers to provide the means of interlinking these now powerful machines at data rates commensurable with those achieved by their own in-house LANs. this constitutes a radical change by any standard (Figure 2). with the technology first appearing on new backbone links.The Relationship Between Services Overview The use of synchronous digital transmission by PTOs in their backbone fibre-optic and radio network will put in place the enabling technology that will support many new broad-band data services demanded by the new breed of computer user. Only later will customers directly benefit with the introduction of new services such as connectionless LAN-to-LAN transmission capability.Figure 1 . but deployment will be spread over a decade. In many respects. As with that revolution. Remembering that this is a multi-billion $ market. . the deployment of synchronous digital transmission is not only concerned with the provision of high-speed gigabit networks. It has as much to do with simplifying access to links and with bringing the full benefits of software control in the form of flexibility and introduction of network management. They also want to be able to transfer information to other metropolitan and international sites as easily and as quickly as they can to a colleague sitting at the next desk. According to one market research company it will take until the mid or late 1990s before 70% of revenue for network equipment manufacturers will be derived from synchronous systems. as demonstrated by the technology's early uptake by many operators including BT. the benefits to the PTO will be the same as those brought to the electronics industry when hard wired logic was replaced by the microprocessor.

with tolerances on an absolute bit-rate ranging from 30ppm (parts per million) at 8Mbit/s to 15ppm at 140Mbit/s. and 140Mbit/s. At the E1 level. Unlike E1 2.048Mbit/s bearers. 34.European Revenue Growth of Transmission Equipment Plesiochronous Transmission.680 base channels.Figure 2 . and now even this is insufficient. 4 x 8Mbit/s to 1 x 34Mbit/s) requires the padding of each tributary by adding bits such that their combined rate together with the addition of control bits matches the final aggregate rate. Digital data and voice transmission is based on a 2. During this time rates have increased through 8. timing is controlled to an accuracy of 1 in 1011 by synchronising to a master Caesium clock. The highest capacity commonly encountered today for intercity fibre optic links is 565Mbit/s.048Mbit/s bearer consisting of 30 time division multiplexed (TDM) voice channels. Increasing traffic over the past decade has demanded that more and more of these basic E1 bearers be multiplexed together to provide increased capacity. Plesiochronous transmission is now often referred to as plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH). . each running at 64Kbps (known as E1 and described by the CCITT G.g. higher rate bearers in the hierarchy are operated plesiochronously. Multiplexing such bearers (known as tributaries in SDH speak) to a higher aggregate rate (e. with each link carrying 7.703 specification).

This particular rate was chosen to accommodate a US T-3 plesiochronous payload to . Once multiplexed. This has created the situation where each data link has a rigid physical and electrical multiplexing hierarchy at either end. without fully demultiplexing down to the E1 level again as shown in Figure 3. called synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH). the introduction of an acceptable world-wide synchronous transmission standard called SDH is welcomed by all. minimum flexibility. By 1988. a superset of SONET. there is no simple way an individual E1 bearer can be identified in a PDH hierarchy. and high capital-equipment and maintenance costs. collaboration between ANSI and CCITT produced an international standard. Synchronous Transmission In the USA in the early 1980s. When encoded and modulated onto a fibre optic carrier STS-1 is known as OC1. US SONET standards are based on STS-1 (synchronous transport signal) equivalent to 51. each step increase in capacity has necessitated maintaining compatibility with what was already installed by adding yet another layer of multiplexing. let alone extracted. so the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) SONET (synchronous optical network) standard was born in 1984. large equipment volume.A typical Plesiochronous Drop & Insert Because of the large investment in earlier generations of plesiochronous transmission equipment. PDH links are generally limited to point-to-point configurations with full demultiplexing at each switching or cross connect node. it was clear that a new standard was required to overcome the limitations presented by PDH networks. long reconfiguration turn-around times.Figure 3 . To add or drop an individual channel or add a lower rate branch to a backbone link a complete hierarchy of MUXs is required as shown in figure 3. Because of these limitations of PDH. The limitations of PDS multiplexing are:      A hierarchy of multiplexers at either end of the link can lead to reduced reliability and resilience. Incompatibilities at the optical interfaces of two different suppliers can cause major system integration problems.84Mbit/s.

because each type of payload is transmitted in containers synchronous with the STM-1 frame. which is 2. SMDS and MAN data. With SDH. and ATM. Survivability. selected payloads may be inserted or extracted from the STM-1 or STM-N aggregate without the need to fully hierarchically de-multiplex as with PDH systems.maintain backwards compatibility with PDH. Higher data rates are multiples of this up to STS-48. A single E1 2. and efficient network management. fast and easy re-configurability.52Mbit/s) rate. . all SDH equipment is software controlled. allowing centralised management of the network configuration.An Example Future SDH Digital Network Benefits of SDH Transmission SDH transmission systems have many benefits over PDH:    Software Control allows extensive use of intelligent network management software for high flexibility. and largely obviates the need for plugs and sockets. SDH allows simple and efficient cross-connect without full hierarchical multiplexing or de-multiplexing. End-to-end monitoring will allow full management and maintenance of the whole network. Most importantly. Mercury is currently trialing STM-1 and STM-16 rate equipment.488Gbit/s.488Gbit/s. Figure 4. SDH is based on an STM-1 (155. ring networks become practicable and their use enables automatic reconfiguration and traffic rerouting when a link is damaged. Efficient drop and insert. even down to the individual chip. SDH supports the transmission of all PDH payloads. which is identical to the SONET STS-3 rate. Further. other than 8Mbit/s. and STS-48 and STM-16 = 2. A future SDH network could look like Figure 4.048Mbit/s tail can be dropped or inserted with relative ease even on Gbit/s links. Some higher bearer rates coincide with SONET rates such as: STS-12 and STM-4 = 622Mbit/s.

Robustness and resilience of installed networks is increased. Follow-on maintenance costs are also reduced. otherwise known as B-ISDN or the precursor of this service in the form of Switched Multimegabit Data Service. there are extensive field trials taking place in 1992 throughout the world prior to introduction in the 1993 .     Standardisation enables the interconnection of equipment from different suppliers through support of common digital and optical standards and interfaces. Backwards compatibly will enable SDH links to support PDH traffic. At least one manufacturer is currently stating that they will be spending up to 80% of their SDH development budgets on management software rather than hardware. of broad-band transmission. . Conclusions The introduction of synchronous digital transmission in the form of SDH will eventually revolutionise all aspects of public data communication from individual leased lines through to trunk networks. it will have a great impact on such issues as staffing levels and required personal skills of personnel within PTOs. SDH will bring about more competition between equipment suppliers designing essentially to a common standard. One practical effect could be to force equipment prices down. but when. These will be discussed in future issues of Technology Watch. Equipment size and operating costs are reduced by removing the need for banks of multiplexers and de-multiplexers. In practice. But it must not be forgotten that there are still many issues to be resolved. SDH forms the basis. Importantly for PTOs. SDH deployment will take a great deal of investment and effort since it replaces the very infrastructure of the world's core communications networks. and helping them to compete in the new markets of the 1990s. The benefits to be gained in terms of improving operator profitability.1995 time scale. Introduction of SDH will lead to the availability of many new broad-band data services providing users with increased flexibility. There is still a lack of understanding of the ramifications of the introduction of SDH within telecommunications operations. the use of extensive software control will impact positively all parts of the business. It is in this area where confusion reigns with potential technologies vying for supremacy. Because of the state-of-the-art nature of SDH and SONET technology. in partnership with ATM (asynchronous transfer mode). It is not so much a question of whether the technology will be taken up. Not least. are so high that deployment of SDH is just a question of time. brought about by the larger volumes engendered by access to world rather than local markets. Such was the situation in the computer industry in the early 1980s. (SMDS). Future proof.