Minimizing Cost and Maximizing Growth with a Routed Optical Network


Back in 2004, a 1 Gbps core network was a big deal. At Norwegian public utility company Nord-Trøndelag Elektrisitetsverk (NTE), we were proud of our first 1 Gbps backbone, but eventually, it wasn’t enough. When we upgraded to a 10 Gbps link in 2006, we thought, “we’ll never fill that.” Sure enough, network demand continued to grow, and in 2019, it reached new heights. We had to change our infrastructure completely to respond to evolving consumer needs.

NTE was founded in 1919 by Nord-Trøndelag County Municipality. On January 1, 2018, Nord-Trøndelag County and Sør-Trøndelag County merged, and NTE became owned by the 19 municipalities in the region. NTE’s activities include the production, distribution, and sale of renewable energy, energy services, fiber-based communication services, and electrical installation.

I’ve been with NTE Telekom since 2011 and am currently our Executive Vice President and CEO. Our team values loyalty, and some of our most senior people, like Senior IP Architect Mats Olsen, have been with us since the beginning. We've grown from serving a handful of customers to over 140,000 internet users, including both B2C and B2B customers.

Our First Upgrade Wasn’t Enough

In 2004, we launched our telecommunications and home internet division, and our 1Gbps-service helped pioneer fiber to the home (FTTH) in Norway when most of the major players were still offering DSL. In 2010, we migrated to a Nokia 10GB DWDM network and thought it would never reach capacity, but we needed to upgrade again as streaming and online gaming grew in popularity. 

In 2019, we upgraded our 10Gbps Nokia hardware to Cisco 200Gbps NCS 2000 Flex Spectrum DWDM technology. We felt that its 2x100Gbps channels offered sufficient bandwidth and knew we could add more capacity when the time came because Cisco had already built 400Gbps functionality into the NCS 2000 hardware. 

We didn’t realize that day would arrive sooner than planned. 

We saw massive growth in our user base. The appetite for high-bandwidth content and services required us to consider new infrastructure that would accommodate existing traffic, allow for future expansion, and lower our costs. We also wanted energy-efficient equipment we could upgrade without having to rip everything out. As a publicly owned and funded utility, fiscal and environmental responsibility are top of mind. 

By 2021, we had started looking at adding 400Gbps network cards to our backbone. After pricing upgrades, we saw it was more cost-effective to build a new parallel network instead of boosting our existing infrastructure, even though it was relatively new. 

Leveraging Cisco Routed Optical Networking

Building a new backbone allowed us to leverage the Cisco Routed Optical Networking solution with the Cisco Evolved Programmable Network Manager (EPN), future-proofing our network as much as possible while simplifying our network management.

The Routed Optical Networking solution converges services onto a single layer based on IP. This architecture enables us to easily upgrade to e 800Gbps and 1.2Tbps when needed, which we hope will satisfy our customer demands for the next decade.

With advanced functionalities at their fingertips, telcos can scale faster as network traffic increases.

We also benefit from increased visibility and enhanced automation with Cisco Evolved Programmable Network Manager (EPN). Instead of manually provisioning and inspecting our routers and optical transceivers, we can manage our infrastructure from a single pane of glass. With Cisco EPN, the team at our Network Operation Center can point and click to provision new routers and network cards and remotely troubleshoot our infrastructure. For example, we can see how IP packets are routed and analyze Forward Error Correction (FEC) issues on our DWDM infrastructure. Our previous network management platform didn’t offer visibility into the photonic layer, but now we have advanced functionalities at our fingertips and can scale faster as network traffic increases. 

We are in the process of building our new scalable network using Cisco 8800, Cisco ASR 9000 and Cisco NCS 5700 routers. All routers are equipped with line cards using high density 400Gbps ports, and we tie everything together utilizing 400Gbps coherent optics. 

This new backbone gives us the 400G bandwidth we need today and the 800G and above capacity to build our technology roadmap.

Sustainably Increasing Capacity and Lowering Costs

Our new Cisco infrastructure, especially the 8800 series routers, uses less electricity, includes more high-capacity ports, and requires less space than our previous system. It is highly scalable and can handle enough bandwidth to accommodate our projected growth. All these features come at an attractive price. When you pair these benefits with single-pane-of-glass maintenance, automation, and deep visibility into our DWDM network, it is clear we found the right partner in Cisco. As a publicly owned utility, NTE strives to get the most from our people, equipment, and IT spend. 

That said, it’s a little bittersweet to move into a chapter at NTE. We built a strong infrastructure that did whatever we needed and served us well for a long time. But I’m happy we can create a new backbone from scratch for the same price as adding new network cards to our previous setup. 

And our old hardware isn’t going to waste, either. NTE is doing our part to help the efforts in Ukraine by sending our decommissioned network devices to help rebuild the infrastructure that’s been damaged or rendered inoperable due to the war. Our old equipment has a lot of life left in it, and in keeping with our commitment to environmental stewardship, we want it to continue to serve others.  

A First in Norway and an Example to the World

I’m incredibly proud of our team. We are a regional provider with 54 employees and have once again adopted cutting-edge technology ahead of the more prominent players. NTE is one of the earliest European adopters of the Cisco Routed Optical Networking solution and the first company in Norway to deploy Cisco 8800 series technology. NTE is a small regional provider, yet Cisco has given us the tools we need to offer the same technology and quality of service as national and international ISPs and IPTV providers. 

With the right #technology, regional players can offer the same quality of service as national and international ISPs and IPTV providers.

Our Cisco Routed Optical Networking solution is sustainable, capable, scalable, and offers the speed and the bandwidth to deliver the cutting-edge services our customers demand. We have tackled the increasing demand for streaming content and online gaming, and are now preparing for the next generation of online applications, including 5G connectivity, home automation, IoT, and the metaverse.  

I’m proud that we can do all of this while also making every effort to adopt green technologies that reduce our carbon footprint, in line with trends in the tech industry and our commitment to supply clean energy to our customers. Technology and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We’re proof that they can go hand in hand and lead to better outcomes for our customers and the planet.