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SDH/SONET (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy /

Synchronous Optical Networking)

Adi Abdulwahab Oluwahsola

Department of Computer Engineering, Institute of Science, Cyprus International University

Haspolat, Northern Cyprus

Abstract- As more and more traffic is being 565 Mbps in Europe. The problem was the high cost of
delivered in Ethernet format, carriers are realizing bandwidth and digital devices. The solution that was
the advantages to converging on a pure Ethernet created then, was a multiplexing technique, allowed for
infrastructure, but are not able to do so with the combining of slightly non synchronous rates.
Ethernet as presently defined. New ITU-T Information is sent over an optical fiber by turning the
Recommendations provide features essential for light off and on in the fiber. The presence of light
operational maintenance of Ethernet networks. indicates a “1” while the absence of light indicates a
Recently proposed mechanisms for configuring “0”. Just knowing this much that we can send and
point-to-point connections in Ethernet networks receive bits across an optical link, but how do we
close another gap between Ethernet and extract the information from those bits? This is where
SONET/SDH networks. Finally, although there are SONET/SDH comes in. SONET/SDH defines the low
a lot of similarities between SONET and SDH, there level framing protocol used on these optical links. By
are some significant differences, especially in “framing”, we mean a block of bits (or octets) which
terminology. For the sake of understanding, I will have a structure, and which utilize some technique
focus this paper on using the SONET terminologies. which allows us to find the boundaries of that frame
structure. Parts of the block may be devoted to
I. INTRODUCTION overhead for the network provider to use to manage the
In the beginning, telephone calls were handled in the
analog domain. Later, digital transmission was
introduced and messages from multiple users could be
transmitted over one single copper pair. Also the need
for faster and better mode of communication lead to the
use of fiber optics which meant that one circuit could
carry many more telephone calls. [2]
Then, optical communication was seen as replacement
for the older wire or microwave communications they
had been using for years. But then they encountered a
practical problem. Vendors of optical communications
equipment had used their own framing techniques on
the optical fiber. Once you selected a vendor, you were
stuck with that vendor for all the equipment in that
optical network. Thus leading to the concept of
standards in optical communications. It’s extremely Table 1: SDH/SONET data rates
important to recognize that the first standards for
optical communications were focused on handling
voice circuits, and especially legacy plesiochronous
channels like DS-1s and DS-3s. If you keep this fact in
mind, many of the odd things about SONET and SDH
will make more sense. At the time these standards were
developed, the tremendous volumes of data traffic had
not appeared and most people did not foresee it.[3]
In the early 80's digital systems became more and more
complex, yet there was huge demand for some features
that were not supported by the existing systems. The
demand was mainly to high order multiplexing through
a hierarchy of increasing bit rates up to 140 Mbps or
II. CHARACTERISTICS OF SDH/SONET Line Terminating Equipment: LTE provides the
function that originates and terminates
Communication between various localized networks is line signals. SONET line terminating equipment can
costly because of differences in digital signal originate, access, modify, or terminate
hierarchies, encoding techniques and multiplexing line overhead in any combination
strategies. For example, the DS1 signals consist of 24
voice signals and one framing bit per frame. It has a III. SHD/SONET FRAME STRUCTURE
rate of 1.544 Mbps. DS1 uses the AMI encoding
scheme, it robs a bit from an eight-bit byte for Each SONET STS-1 (Synchronous Transport Signal)
signaling. Therefore, it has a rate of 56 kbps per Frame is represented by 9 rows of 90 bytes. Each
channel. But with the B8ZS bipolar violation-encoding SONET frame is transmitted row by row in
scheme, every bit is used for transmission. Therefore, it 125usec(microseconds). The math for achieving this
has a rate of 64 Kbps per channel. The CEPT-1(E1) transmission rate is as follows:
signal consist of 30 voice signals and 2 channels for 9 rows x 90Bytes = 810 bytes or 6480 bits. Each frame
framing and signaling, its rate is 2.048 Mbps. is sampled once every 125µsec or 8000 frames/sec
Therefore communication between different networks 8000 frames/sec x 6480 bits/frame = 51.84 Mbits/sec
requires complicated multiplexing / de-multiplexing, (Speed of STS-1 SONET payload envelope).[4]
coding/decoding process to convert a signal from one As illustrated in Figure 2, the STS-1 contains the
format to another format.[5] To solve this problem Synchronous Payload Envelope (SPE) with the data
SONET standardize the rates and formats. The payload(s). Its value is 87 octets. An actual packet or
Synchronous Transport Signal (STS) is the basic cell within an SPE can span multiple SONET Frames.
building block of SONET optical interfaces with a rate In the SONET Frames, the first 3 columns make up the
of 51.84 Mbps. The STS consists of two parts, the STS SONET Transport Overhead, which consists of 27
payload (data, carries the information) and the STS octets. The SONET Transport Over head is divided up
overhead (carries the signaling and protocol such that the STS Section Overhead (SOH) consumes 9
information). octets, while the STS Line Overhead (LOH) consumes
A basic SDH/SONET network requires some basic 18 Octets for a combined SONET Transport Overhead
components. Firstly, 3 add/drop multiplexers that of 27 octets. Both the SOH and LOH are used by the
function as path termination equipment and line SONET Operations, Administration and Maintenance
termination equipment and 2 regenerators. (OA&M) function to support network management
facilities. The SOH fields are used by a receiving
SONET multiplexer to synchronize onto the SONET
signal. The LOH fields are used:

Fig 1: Typical End-to-End SONET connection.

Path Termination Equipment: PTE is a network

element that multiplex / de-multiplex the STS payload.
The STS path terminating equipment assembles 28 Fig 2: Basic SONET Frame
1.544Mbps DS1signals and inserts path overhead to
from a 51.84 Mbps STS-1 signal. It can detect The SONET/SDH works on the physical layer of the
mismatched Signal labels. It is considered OSI model. Its standards include a definition of a
provisioned if it has been configured for a mapping and transmission protocol stack which solves the operation
has been assigned signals to and from which the and maintenance problems often found when dealing
mapping takes place. with networks that have component streams lacking a
common clock.
Section Terminating Equipment: STE can be a
terminating network element or a regenerator. It’s able The Photonic Layer
to access, modify, terminate the overhead, or originate
them. It regenerates signals for long distance transport. This is the electrical and optical interface for
transporting information over fiber optic cabling. It
converts STS electrical signals into optical light pulses.
This layer is commonly compared with the Data-Link One of SONET/SDH's most interesting characteristics
layer of the OSI model, which also handles framing is its support for a ring topology. Normally, one piece
and physical transfer. of fiber - the working ring - handles all data traffic, but
a second piece of fiber -- the protection ring remains on
The Section Layer standby. Should the working ring fail, SONET/SDH
includes the capability to automatically detect the
This layer deals with the transport of an STS-N frame failure and transfer control to the protection ring in a
across the physical medium. Its main functions are very short period of time, often in a fraction of a
framing, scrambling, error monitoring, and section second.[1] For this reason, SONET/SDH can be
maintenance. described as a self-healing network technology.
The usefulness of rings also depends on their physical
location. If the rings are located next to each other,
The Line Layer then if a back-hoe from a construction company takes
out one of your fibers, it is quite likely that the second
This takes care of a number of functions, including one will go as well. Thus, your rings should be
synchronization and multiplexing for the path layer physically separated from each other as much as
above it. It also provides automatic protection possible in order to achieve high uptime.
switching, which uses provisioned spare capacity in the
event of a failure on the primary circuit.

The Path Layer

This takes services such as DS-3, T1, or ISDN and

maps them into the SONET/SDH format. This layer,
Fig 4: Linear Topology
which can be accessed only by equipment like an
add/drop multiplexer (a device that breaks down a
SONET/SDH line into its component parts), takes care
of all end-to-end communications, maintenance, and

Fig 5: Ring Topology

Fig 3: The SONET Layers

SONET equipment is being deployed in significant
SONET/SDH supports several topologies, including numbers into the field by most of the major Service
point to point, a hub and spoke star configuration, and Providers. Many utility, civil government and large
the ring topology. The ring topology, which is by far enterprise customers have also elected to deploy
the most popular, has been used for years by such SONET on their enterprise backbones to take
network technologies as FDDI and Token Ring and has advantage of its scalability, high performance, and
proven quite robust and fault-tolerant. A SONET/SDH inherent reliability and survivability characteristics.
ring can contain two pairs of transmit and receive These government and enterprise customers either
fibers. One pair can be designated as active with the bypass their local carriers and self-manage the entire
other one functioning as a secondary in case of failure. SONET infrastructure or they tie into a Central Office
SONET/SDH rings have a "self-healing" feature that to allow their local service provider to offer WAN
makes them even more appealing for long distance connectivity or network management services. In North
connections from one end of the country to another. America, SONET equipment is being deployed and
configured to transport DS-1, DS-3, ATM, FDDI,
Frame Relay and IP traffic among other services, using
ring-based, hub-based and point-to-point based
configurations. VII. CONCLUSION

VI. IP OVER SONET SDH networks are mature and have contributed much
to the telecommunications and
The explosive growth in Internet traffic has created the networking industry. Given the rise of Internet and
need to transport IP on high-speed links. In the days of IP/data-oriented traffic, there is room
low traffic volume between IP routers, bandwidth for improvement. Virtual concatenation and LCAS are
partitions over a common interface made it attractive to some of the mechanisms emerging
carry IP over a frame relay and/or an ATM backbone. from the standards track that offer some relief. They
As the traffic grows, it is becoming more desirable to are also tools to help manage the
carry IP traffic directly over the synchronous optical migration toward a more convergent packet-oriented
network (SONET), at least in the core backbone with multiservice network.
very high pairwise demand. Currently, the focus of IP
transport continues to be data-oriented. However, a REFERENCES
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