national lambdarailOwned by the U.S. research and education community, National LambdaRail is the most technically advanced, flexible and cost-effective network dedicated to the needs of researchers and research organizations.


National LambdaRail (NLR) is the network platform of choice enabling cutting-edge exploration and discovery in the biomedical, engineering, network research, physics and many other disciplines at over 180 leading research institutions and federal agencies. In support of these clients, NLR completed the first phase of a national dense wave division multiplex backbone (DWDM) in 2004. In 2009, NLR embarked upon a network upgrade to increase the value of their network with increased capacity, higher reliability and more flexibility.


To overcome these challenges, NLR turned to optical networking expert, LightRiver Technologies, for fiber plant characterization, equipment installation, and system-wide test and turn-up. LightRiver helped NLR upgrade 6.750 network miles consisting of 143 DWDM shelves and 116 network locations across the U.S. The network now runs at 1600 Gbps.

Specific areas where LightRiver applied its unique technical know-how include:

  • Reducing Network Downtime During Cut-Over: Many of NLR’s routes have limited fiber counts. Compounded with the sheer distance and number of nodes in the network, this presented a challenge in minimizing the downtime. LightRiver leveraged its commitment to technical training and overcame this challenge by deploying a large number of field engineers with optical expertise to coordinate the network cutover and test and circuit restoration.
  • Realizing the Value of Fiber Assets: NLR wanted to maximize the value of their fiber assets and pump as much bandwidth through the network as possible. To meet this challenge, LightRiver again turned to its core fiber optic competency. Conducting a comprehensive fiber optic characterization (FOC), LightRiver determined the maximum number of wavelengths that could be transmitted on each span. In some cases fiber characteristics were improved with specialized cleaning of fiber strand ends.
  • Reducing the Risk of New Technology: Raman amplification technology was key to meeting the loss budget for ultra-long span lengths without the need for costly regeneration. Raman amps presented two challenges: matching the quality of fiber with amplification and out-of-box failures due to new technology. To further overcome these challenges, all of the network equipment was first powered, tested and validated at LightRiver Labs, a state-of-the art testing and integration facility in Lafayette, CA. After validation, the equipment was kitted, palleted, shrink wrapped and shipped to all the NLR deployment sites.

One span of note, Los Angeles to Seattle, consists of 1100 miles of unregenerated fiber – truly an industry first.

Tom West, CEO of National LambdaRail:

What impressed us about LightRiver throughout this challenging project was their technical know-how with wide area networking and DWDM and their ability to scale to a project of such magnitude. LightRiver was extremely easy to do business with, quickly resolved the challenges presented by this large network and, most importantly, finished on time and on budget.

Contact Us

Thank you for your interest in LightRiver Technologies. We will get back to you soon.