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Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy (PDH) and Syncronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH)

Analysis and Comparison of PDH and SDH

Usman Jibril Wushishi

Department of Management Information Systems Cyprus International University Lefkosa, North Cyprus.


Abstract The collection of terminal nodes, links, and any intermediate nodes that are connected in order to enable telecommunication among the terminals is known as Telecommunications Network. The transmission link binds the nodes together with the nodes reaching the right destination terminal by using circuit switching, message switching, or packet switching. There exists different types of telecommunication networks; these include computer networks, the telephone network, the Internet, the global telex network, the aeronautical ACARS network. The transportation of large quantity of data over digital transport equipment such as microwave radio wave systems and fibre optic requires a technology in the telecommunication network. There are different ways to synchronize data stream between the transmitter of the data stream and the receiver. This refers to how data stream is clocked, which varies from synchronous, plesiochronous, isochronous, and asynchronous. This paper aims at analyzing and comparing the first two (synchronous and plesiochronous) digital hierarchy in telecommunication network. Keywords- PDH; SDH; SONET; multiplexing; data stream; bit rate; MUX multiplexer; DEMUX de-multiplexer.



Prior to SONET and SDH, there existed an infrastructure based on the plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH), which can be dated back to the mid-1960s. As at then, the primary aim was on multiplexing digital voice circuits. An analog voice circuit having a bandwidth of 4 kHz could be sampled at 8 kHz and quantized at 8 bits per sample, resulting to a bit rate of 64 kbps for a digital voice circuit. This became the widely

accepted standard. Data streams of higher speed were defined as multiples of this basic 64 kbps stream. Different parts of the world were using different set of standards for these higher- speed streams. In North America, the 64 kbps is called DS0 (Digital Signal-0), the 1.544 Mbps signal is DS1, and so on. In Europe, the hierarchy is labeled E0, E1, E2, E3, and so on with the E0 having the same rate with the DS0. These rates are widespread today in carrier networks and are given as leased line services by carriers to customers, mostly to carry data rather than voice traffic. PDH suffered a lot of problems, which prompted carriers and vendors to aim for a new transmission and multiplexing standard in the late 1980s. This brought about the

Akintoye Oluwasegun Ogundiya

Department of Management Information Systems Cyprus International University Lefkosa, North Cyprus. segunogundiya@gmail.com

SONET/SDH standards, which eliminated many problems that are associated with PDH [1].


(PDH) The term „Plesiochronous‟ is derived from the Greek words plesio which means near, and chronous, time. This simply means that PDH networks run in a state where various parts of the network are almost, but not quite perfectly synchronized [2]. It involves the transmission of a large quantity of data on fibre optic transmission system. Both the transmission and reception are synchronized but the timing is not. Different master clocks make up the channel clocks with its range specified to lie within certain limits. The multiplexed signal is

called a „plesiochronous‟ signal. PDH allows sending of data streams which are nominally running at the same rate, but allowance of variation on the speed around a nominal rate. For example, any two watches are nominally running at the same rate, clocking up 60 seconds every minute, but there is no connection between watches to ensure that they run at exactly the same rate; there is high likelihood that one is running slightly faster than the other.

There are two totally different hierarchies in PDH multiplexing; the United States and Japan, and another for Europe and the rest of the world. It is noticed that the different multiplexing levels are not multiples of each other; this is as a result of PDH not exactly synchronous and every multiplexing level needs an extra bandwidth to execute Bit Stuffing. Hence, plesiochronous hierarchy needs “Bit Stuffing” at all levels to take care of the differences in clocks.

The PDH network has different levels of multiplexers. These include (i) 2 Mbps to 8 Mbps, (ii) 8 Mbps to 34 Mbps and (iii) 34 Mbps to 140 Mbps. Hence, to transmit a 2 Mbps data stream across the 140 Mbps trunk needs it to be multiplexed up through the higher order multiplexers into the 140 Mbps trunk and then multiplexed down through the lower order multiplexers. Because Plesiochronous is not quite Synchronous, each of the multiplexers require a little bit of overhead on their high speed trunks to cater for the little differences in the data rates of the streams on the low speed

ports. The low speed ports having some data (running too fast) can be carried in the trunk overhead, and this can occur at all multiplexing levels. This is termed Justification or Bit Stuffing.

A. SLIP, JUSTIFICATION, AND JITTER SLIP occurs when an incoming bit rate does not match with the divided multiplexer/de-multiplexer clock rate. In this case, either same bit may be read twice or loss of bits will occur. JITTER is the displacement of a pulse from its normal significant instant. JUSTIFICATION can be defined as the process of adding additional bits to solve the problem of SLIP. There are three types of JUSTIFICATION;

POSITIVE JUSTIFICATION It is a situation whereby the MUX clock rate is higher than tributary rate.

NEGATIVE JUSTIFICATION If the MUX clock rate is lower than the tributary rate, it is known as negative justification.

POSITIVE-NEGATIVE JUSTIFICATION If averagely, the MUX clock rate and tributary bit rate are equal, it is termed positive-negative justification.


Tributary bit rate and MUX clock (divided)

can be

solved by adding additional bit (bit stuffing or justification)

MUX clock speed should be same at both the ends. Solution: It is solved by using a PLL circuit at terminal „B‟ to recover the clock.

Synchronization. Solution: It is solved by Frame Alignment Word (FAW).


PDH is not ideally modeled for efficient delivery and management of high bandwidth connections.

The demands placed on it are not being met, hence, it is no longer efficient

The whole system is de-multiplexed in order to access the lower order tributary

There is bandwidth limitation maximum capacity is 566 Mbps only.


should be the same. Solution: This







Tolerance is allowed in bit rates.

Only point-to-point configuration (linear working) is possible.

It does not support hub.


SDH (Synchronized Digital Hierarchy) or SONET- Is a group of fibre-optic transmission rates that transport digital signals with different capacities. The emergence of optical-fibre and

large scale integrated circuit made complex standard more possible [3]. Demands for improved and sophisticated services that required large amount of bandwidth, high performance monitoring facilities, and greater network flexibility were made.


Bellcore drafted the new standard as SONET in the United States, and then went through extensive revision before it emerged in a form compatible with the international SDH. SONET and SDH emerged in 1992 and 1988 respectively [3]. SONET carries payload as the North American PDH hierarchy of bit rates, and has an ANSI standard: 1.5/6/45 Mbps, plus 2 Mbps known as E-1 in the United States. SDH adopts SONET and international standard but it‟s often regarded as European standard because its suppliers- with one or two exceptions operate on the ETSI (defined European PDH bit rate of 2/34/140 Mbps), the 8Mbps is omitted in SDH. Genuine SDH standard defines the transport of 1.5/2/6/34/45/140 Mbps within a transmission rate of 155.52 Mbps, and has the capability of carrying other traffics, such as ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode), and IP (Internet Protocol) within certain rates of multiple integer of 155.52 Mbps. Radio systems in SDH exist at rates compatible with both SDH and SONET [3].


1. Traffic Interfaces- SDH defines traffic that do not depend on vendors. At the rate of 155Mbps, they are defined for both optical and copper interfaces, but at higher rates more than 155 Mbps, they are defined for optical only [3]. Higher rates are defined as integer multiples of 155.52 Mbps in an n x 4 sequence, for example 622.08 Mbps (622Mbps) and 2488.32 Mbps (2.5Gbps). Multiplexing to higher rates such as 10 GB continues in this form in order to support growth of network and demand for broadband services. Every interface rate contains overheads for supporting facilities and payload capacity for traffic [3].

2. SDH Layers- During the process of multiplexing, payloads are divided into lower-order and higher-order virtual containers; each of these layers has a function of management and error monitoring. This layering function in SDH, for traffic and management, satisfies the concept of layering in service based network better than transmission oriented PDH standards.

3. Management Functions- For SDH to support a range of operations, it has a layer responsible for management, whose communications are transmitted via a dedicated communication path. However there is no accord regarding the definition of message sets to be carried [3]. Therefore, interworking of management channels between carriers at the SDH interface does not exist. On the other hand, there has been more accord at the network-management interface to

each other node, which is over a local-area network. SDH vendors are migrating their software to be compatible with Q3em interface



Evolutionary Pressure- The main reason behind the deployment of the SDH is to reduce network operating costs and increase in revenue. In order to achieve the former, improving the management of networks and introducing more reliable equipment has to be considered, in that case SDH scores high on both [3]. The latter can come from satisfying the growing demand for improved services, such as, broadband and improved response, flexibility of network as well as reliability. SDH has better transmission quality, enormous routing flexibility and supports path self-healing.


Capacity management in the network involves operations as follows:

a. Protection, for circuit recovery occurs in milliseconds.

b. Restoration, for circuit recovery occurs in seconds or minutes.

c. Provisioning, for the allocation of capacity to the preferred routes.

d. Consolidation, of unfilled bearers onto fewer bearers, in order to eliminate traffic capacity waste.

e. Sorting, from different types of traffic from mixed payloads into different destination for each type of traffic.

All these functionalities were found in switched network through using flexible switches for both private and public telephony-based circuits.



SDH was designed to allow flexibility in the creation of telecommunication traffic routing products electronically, Products involved are:

1. Optical-line systems: This provides the transmission bearer backbone for the SDH network.

2. Radio relay systems: To the lesser extent work in the same way as Optical-line systems.

3. Terminal Multiplexers: This gives access to SDH networks, using certain interfaces such as 2 Mbps G.703 or fibre distributed data interfaces (FDDI) in oriented forms via router or bridge.(1)

4. Add-Drop Multiplexers (ADM): ADM can offer same functionalities as terminal multiplexers, and can also provide low-cost access to traffic passing along a bearer (1). ADM designs are suitable for incorporations configured in rings in order to provide flexibility in services for both urban and rural areas. In ADM ring designs, routing alternative is employed to overcome fibre cuts and equipment failures.

5. Hub Multiplexers: It provide flexibility for interconnecting traffic between bearers, mostly fibre optics.(1) It is usually connected as a star and traffic can be service managed, while hubs in between standby bearers provide alternate routing for restoration to occur. Several rings in ADMs have the ability to converge on a single hub, providing interconnection of traffic. ADM can also be used as hub multiplexers, or combined to optimize network topology between ring and star.



Cross-Connects are known as digitally cross-connect switches (DCSs) in the United States and DXCs elsewhere. They can be classified as DSC p/q and DXC p/q, where p is the hierarchical order of the port bit rate and q is the hierarchical order of traffic component that is switched within the port bit rate (1). Some cross-connect design allows interfaces in PDH in order to be compatible with the existing.

G. NETWORK DESIGN Network Topology- By the introduction of new topology, SDH flexibility can be used to best of advantage. Unlike traditional networks using mesh and hub configuration (i.e. star), with the help of DXCs and hub multiplexers, SDH allows the usage of these in much more compressive way (1). SDH also allows the combination of rings and chains in ADMs in order to enhance flexibility and reliability across networks. Ring could offer improved services to a high populated business areas, such as parks or conference centres.

H. FUTURE OF SDH Almost all fibre-optic transmission installed in public places use SDH. It is expected to dominate transmission for decades to come just like its predecessor PDH, which has been there for more than 20 years.



SDH has catered for the weaknesses or setbacks of PDH. Transmission of data is done in Virtual Containers and the use of pointers in locating a low speed channel in a high speed trunk. Carriers prefer SDH because of its provision of robust ring architecture with self-healing capabilities, its good provision and management attributes, and its strong international standards.

REFERENCES [1] Rajiv Ramaswami, Kumar N. Sivarajan, Galen H. Sasaki Optical Networks, a Practical Perspective (Third Edition) [2] Akshay Vaishnav Palle „International Journal for Scientific Research and Development, vol.1, issue 7, 2013‟ – Synchronous Digital Hierarchy and its Architecture. [3] IEE Electronics and Communication Engineering Journal, the International Engineering Consortium. http://www.iec.org