Synchronous optical network, commonly known as SONET, is a standard for communicating
digital information using lasers or light emitting diodes (LEDs) over optical
fiber as defined by GR-253-CORE from Telcordia. It was developed to replace the
PDH system for transporting large amounts of telephone and data traffic and to
allow for interoperability between equipment from different vendors.
recent Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) standard developed by ITU (G.707 and
its extension G.708) is built on experience in the development of SONET. Both
SDH and SONET are widely used today; SONET in the U.S. and Canada, SDH in the
rest of the world.
SDH is growing in popularity and is currently the main
concern with SONET now being considered as the variation.
SONET differs from
PDH in that the exact rates that are used to transport the data are tightly synchronized
to network based clocks. Thus an entire network can operate synchronously, though
the presence of different timing sources allow for different circuits within a
SONET signal to be timed off of different clocks (through the use of pointers
and buffers.) SDH was made possible by the existence of atomic clocks.
SONET and SDH can be used to encapsulate earlier digital transmission standards,
such as the PDH standard, or used directly to support either ATM or so-called
Packet over SONET networking. As such, it is inaccurate to think of SONET as a
communications protocol in and of itself, but rather as a generic and all-purpose
transport container for moving both voice and data.
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