Carrier Ethernet Key to Delivering Advanced IP Services

Telcos and other service providers are scrambling to meet growing demand for SD-WAN and IP services. Carrier Ethernet offers a way to expand their offerings in these areas.

Telcos and other service providers are scrambling to meet growing demand for IP services. Carrier Ethernet offers a way to expand their offerings.
(Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd IFE-240611 / Alamy Stock Photo)

Enterprise demand for high-speed and secure connectivity, as well as IP-based next-generation services (like SASE), is placing a new spotlight on carrier Ethernet. Noting this demand, telcos, and other service providers are building up their carrier Ethernet offerings to use as an entrée into new markets or, more radically, to transform themselves into what Omdia calls techcos.

Background on carrier Ethernet

The reason carrier Ethernet is so well suited to play a role in modern enterprise infrastructures goes back to its roots. For nearly 25 years, carrier Ethernet has provided enterprises with standards-based, interoperable, and high-bandwidth connectivity over metropolitan and wide-area networks. Such characteristics are in great demand as businesses expand geographically and operations become more distributed.

"Carrier Ethernet is the backbone of modern connectivity, providing reliability and speed that fuels the enterprise, empowering them to seamlessly communicate, innovate, and thrive in the digital landscape,” says Kevin Vachon, COO of MEF, a global industry association of network, cloud, and technology providers. “As a source of scalable and flexible networking solutions built on 20 years of open MEF standards, and now able to automate with MEF APIs, carrier Ethernet is the crucial link between businesses and the opportunities of a connected future.”

An energized market for carrier Ethernet services

Global spending on carrier Ethernet equipment will grow from a very healthy $6.56 billion this year to a projected $8.04 billion by 2031, according to Verified Market Research.

Top U.S. providers of carrier Ethernet service (who are presumably the ones buying such equipment) include AT&T, Lumen, Spectrum Enterprise, Verizon, Comcast Business, and Cox Business, according to Vertical Systems Group’s most recent U.S. Carrier Ethernet LEADERBOARD assessment of the market.

For any mature market, sustained and continued growth over two decades is a positive indication of demand for bandwidth and other features that carrier Ethernet services deliver.

Why are such services in so much demand, and why now?


IDC notes that carrier Ethernet is a popular connectivity option due to its ubiquitous availability from a broad range of service providers, including managed service providers and legacy telcos.

High-Bandwidth Support

Others, such as Markwide Research, note the market has gained significant traction in recent years due to the increasing demand for high-bandwidth applications and the need for reliable and efficient network infrastructure.

That makes sense. Enterprises are looking for reliable Ethernet services and access devices to support their explosive adoption of cloud-based services, expanded use of IoT applications, and the routine need to run data-intensive business processes and workloads every day. Fortunately, modern carrier Ethernet devices and services deliver reliable Ethernet to satisfy the bandwidth and performance needs of these applications.


There are other factors driving the need for Ethernet. For example, the increased use of video streaming, online collaboration tools, and more is driving the demand for gigabit and multi-gigabit Ethernet connections. Given that these are mission-critical applications, any connectivity service used needs more than pure raw bandwidth. Specifically, there is a growing need for services that include Quality of Service (QoS), traffic control, and service-level agreements (SLAs). These are all things that the leading providers of carrier Ethernet offer.

MEF has been instrumental in ensuring that all the backend capabilities (orchestration, automation, billing, etc.) providers need to deliver services are addressed. The group’s third-generation carrier Ethernet service standards provide the dynamic, performance-enhanced, orchestrated, and high-speed connectivity required by modern enterprises, cloud, and mobile service providers. 

New markets emerge

As noted above, there is a growing demand for SD-WAN and IP services. And to meet that demand telcos are looking for ways to expand their offerings in these areas. They are going so far as to transform into techcos.

Most providers undergoing this transformation already use carrier Ethernet for internal purposes (e.g., mobile and 5G/LTE backhaul) or offer connectivity services to enterprise customers. Their expertise in the technology can be leveraged to develop and deliver new digital and IP service offerings.  

Carrier Ethernet has also sparked interest from satellite service providers. For decades, satellite communication was relegated to special use cases due to its high costs, proprietary technologies, antiquated ground station infrastructure, and signal latency. But things are changing.

Many satellite service providers are moving to IT infrastructures, using new service orchestration tools, automating operations, and embracing telecommunications industry standards. And enterprises frequently need global coverage, which is something satellite services can support.

The missing link (until recently) was something to bridge the satellite and traditional communications services fields. Well, it turns out carrier Ethernet can play a critical role in enabling satellite and telecommunications networks to converge and integrate more easily.

“By making satellite networks like any other access network technology through Carrier Ethernet, telcos and communication service providers can deliver a standard portfolio of enterprise services using satellite, just like when using fiber or cellular," said Greg Quiggle, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Kratos, in a recent MEF blog.

A final word on carrier Ethernet

To meet the enterprise demand for ubiquitous connectivity and advanced digital services requires a resilient and high-performance network infrastructure. Increasingly, providers of all types are looking to use carrier Ethernet to meet these service needs.

About the Author(s)

Salvatore Salamone, Managing Editor, Network Computing

Salvatore Salamone is the managing editor of Network Computing. He has worked as a writer and editor covering business, technology, and science. He has written three business technology books and served as an editor at IT industry publications including Network World, Byte, Bio-IT World, Data Communications, LAN Times, and InternetWeek.

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