Demand for high-speed metropolitan-area networks (MANs) was increasing in the Asia-Pacific region even as telecommunications service providers and enterprises tighten spending on technology, industry analysts said. Research firm Gartner said steady deployment in urban centres across the region was being spurred by the high-speed file transfer requirements of big business and greater use of the Internet and corporate intranets. Gartner said the development of standards for more advanced data-transmission technologies, particularly 10-gigabit Ethernet (GbE), and the wider availability of metro Ethernet equipment had helped increase awareness of these networking innovations. Urban centres in Greater China, Japan and South Korea are expected to help push the regional adoption of Ethernet MAN systems. Global demand for such systems is expected to create a US$50 billion opportunity for services providers by 2005. A typical MAN comprises a network that connects users with computer resources in an area or region larger than a local-area network (LANs) but smaller than a wide-area network (WAN). It is also used to mean the interconnection of several LANs by bridging them with so-called backbone lines, a set-up that is sometimes called a campus network. More than 20 per cent of large and mid-sized businesses worldwide are expected to have native Ethernet MAN or WAN connectivity by 2005, according to Gartner. Initial Ethernet technology allowed LANs to push data at speeds of 10 megabits per second; 10GbE has increased this to 10,000Mbps. Multimedia applications that can run on high-speed MANs are not considered a priority by most organisations in the Asia-Pacific. This has not stopped certain service providers in the region from carving a niche market. In Hong Kong, networking-gear maker Cisco Systems last year helped local service provider Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN), a subsidiary of City Telecom (HK), build a metro Ethernet network that covers more than 2,500 buildings. That includes about one million homes - or more than 40 per cent of Hong Kong's 2.1 million households. This MAN infrastructure is described by Cisco as the largest of its type to date in Asia. It links most of Hong Kong's public housing estates and private residential buildings so that they can enjoy a range of converged Internet Protocol-based services through a single network. The services include broadband Internet access, local telephony and digital television services delivered via Cisco's IP multicast technology. 'Hong Kong home users demand the highest levels of quality and reliability in Internet and telephone services,' Cisco Hong Kong managing director Frankie Sum said. 'With the rapid take-up rate of broadband Internet services, this next-generation metro Ethernet and IP platform allows HKBN to introduce new revenue-generation services such as voice, pay-TV and video-conferencing.' HKBN is not alone in setting up an Ethernet MAN system in both the residential and commercial markets. In Italy, FastWeb, the broadband telecommunications arm of e.Biscom, is deploying one of Europe's largest metro Ethernet switching networks to customers in Milan, Genoa, Turin, Bologna, Naples and Rome with a comprehensive range of voice, video and data services. Cisco rival Foundry Networks has clinched some of the highest-profile 10GbE projects to date, including supplying gear for one of Japan's largest Internet exchanges, called Wide (Widely Integrated Distributed Environments). Wide operates a number of Japan's Internet exchanges, including NSPIXP-2. More than 60 Japanese Internet service providers are connected to NSPIXP-2. Foundry has extended its leadership position in the industry with a number of 10GbE installations, for instance at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, at the London Internet Exchange, and at the Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California.