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Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH

© Mercury Communications Ltd. - August 1992
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.

the deployment of synchronous digital transmission is not only concerned with the provision of high-speed gigabit networks. synchronous digital transmission will not take hold overnight. with the technology first appearing on new backbone links. this constitutes a radical change by any standard (Figure 2). as demonstrated by the technology's early uptake by many operators including BT. 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. Users who extensively use PCs and workstations with LANs. The first to feel the benefits will be the PTOs themselves. graphic layout. but deployment will be spread over a decade. Remembering that this is a multi-billion $ market. 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. However.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.Figure 1 . As with that revolution. 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. 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. In many respects. only later will customers directly benefit with the introduction of new services such as connectionless LAN-to-LAN transmission capability. They also want to be .

European Revenue Growth of Transmission Equipment Plesiochronous Transmission. Figure 2 . Increasing traffic over the past decade has demanded that more and more of these basic E1 bearers be multiplexed together to provide increased capacity. The highest capacity commonly encountered today for inter-city fiber optic links is 565Mbit/s. Digital data and voice transmission is based on a 2. Multiplexing such bearers (known as tributaries in SDH speak) to a higher aggregate rate (e. and now even this is insufficient.703 specification).048Mbit/s bearers. Plesiochronous transmission is now often referred to as plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH). higher rate bearers in the hierarchy are operated plesiochronously. During this time rates have increased through 8. with tolerances on an absolute bit-rate ranging from 30ppm (parts per million) at 8Mbit/s to 15ppm at 140Mbit/ 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. At the E1 level.g. 34. with each link carrying 7.048Mbit/s bearer consisting of 30 time division multiplexed (TDM) voice channels. and 140Mbit/s. each running at 64Kbps (known as E1 and described by the CCITT G. . 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. Unlike E1 2. timing is controlled to an accuracy of 1 in 1011 by synchronizing to a master Cesium clock.680 base channels.

The limitations of PDS multiplexing are: • • • • • A hierarchy of multiplexers at either end of the link can lead to reduced reliability and resilience.Figure 3 . Because of these limitations of PDH. Synchronous Transmission In the USA in the early 1980s. This has created the situation where each data link has a rigid physical and electrical multiplexing hierarchy at either end. each step increase in capacity has necessitated maintaining compatibility with what was already installed by adding yet another layer of multiplexing. 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. Once multiplexed. collaboration between ANSI and CCITT produced an international standard.A typical Plesiochronous Drop & Insert Because of the large investment in earlier generations of plesiochronous transmission equipment. . without fully demultiplexing down to the E1 level again as shown in Figure 3. and high capital-equipment and maintenance costs. so the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) SONET (synchronous optical network) standard was born in 1984. long reconfiguration turn-around times. large equipment volume. called synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH). Incompatibilities at the optical interfaces of two different suppliers can cause major system integration problems. 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. the introduction of an acceptable worldwide synchronous transmission standard called SDH is welcomed by all. a superset of SONET. let alone extracted. minimum flexibility. By 1988. there is no simple way an individual E1 bearer can be identified in a PDH hierarchy.

52Mbit/s) rate. Some higher bearer rates coincide with SONET rates such as: STS-12 and STM-4 = 622Mbit/s. Figure 4. Higher data rates are multiples of this up to STS-48. SDH is based on an STM-1 (155. all SDH equipment is software controlled. because each type of payload is transmitted in containers synchronous with the STM-1 frame. and efficient network management. Most importantly. This particular rate was chosen to accommodate a US T-3 plesiochronous payload to maintain backwards compatibility with PDH. A future SDH network could look like Figure 4. . which is identical to the SONET STS-3 rate.US SONET standards are based on STS-1 (synchronous transport signal) equivalent to 51. Mercury is currently trialing STM-1 and STM-16 rate equipment. allowing centralised management of the network configuration. other than 8Mbit/s. and largely obviates the need for plugs and sockets. SMDS and MAN data. Further. fast and easy re-configurability. When encoded and modulated onto a fibre optic carrier STS-1 is known as OC-1. 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. and STS-48 and STM-16 = 2.488Gbit/s. and ATM.488Gbit/s.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.84Mbit/s. which is 2. even down to the individual chip. SDH supports the transmission of all PDH payloads.

A single E1 2. It is not so much a question of whether the technology will be taken up. the use of extensive software control will impact positively all parts of the business. These will be discussed in future issues of Technology Watch. Efficient drop and insert. brought about by the larger volumes engendered by access to world rather than local markets.1995 time scale. Importantly for PTOs. . there are extensive field trials taking place in 1992 throughout the world prior to introduction in the 1993 .048Mbit/s tail can be dropped or inserted with relative ease even on Gbit/s links. SDH will bring about more competition between equipment suppliers designing essentially to a common standard. Robustness and resilience of installed networks is increased. There is still a lack of understanding of the ramifications of the introduction of SDH within telecommunications operations. Follow-on maintenance costs are also reduced. Such was the situation in the computer industry in the early 1980s. but when. ring networks become practicable and their use enables automatic reconfiguration and traffic rerouting when a link is damaged. Because of the state-of-the-art nature of SDH and SONET technology. SDH forms the basis. One practical effect could be to force equipment prices down. Future proof. It is in this area where confusion reigns with potential technologies vying for supremacy. In practice. Standardisation enables the interconnection of equipment from different suppliers through support of common digital and optical standards and interfaces. of broad-band transmission. Backwards compatibly will enable SDH links to support PDH traffic.• • • • • • • Survivability. Not least. SDH allows simple and efficient cross-connect without full hierarchical multiplexing or de-multiplexing. Equipment size and operating costs are reduced by removing the need for banks of multiplexers and de-multiplexers. otherwise known as B-ISDN or the precursor of this service in the form of Switched Multimegabit Data Service. 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. (SMDS). Introduction of SDH will lead to the availability of many new broad-band data services providing users with increased flexibility. it will have a great impact on such issues as staffing levels and required personal skills of personnel within PTOs. in partnership with ATM (asynchronous transfer mode). 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. End-toend monitoring will allow full management and maintenance of the whole network. With SDH.

and helping them to compete in the new markets of the 1990s. Click here to return to the front page . are so high that deployment of SDH is just a question of time.SDH deployment will take a great deal of investment and effort since it replaces the very infrastructure of the world's core communications networks. The benefits to be gained in terms of improving operator profitability. But it must not be forgotten that there are still many issues to be resolved.