Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH)

SDH has become the primary transmission protocol in most PSTN networks. It was developed to allow streams 1.544 Mbit/s and above to be multiplexed, so as to create larger SDH frames known as Synchronous Transport Modules (STM) . The STM-1 frame consists of smaller streams that are multiplexed to create a 155.52 Mbit/s frame . SDH can also multiplex packet based frames such as Ethernet, PPP and ATM .

While SDH is considered to be a transmission protocol (Layer 1 in the OSI Reference Model), it also performs some switching functions, as stated in the third bullet point requirement listed above . The most common SDH Networking functions are as follows:

• SDH Crossconnect – The SDH Crossconnect is the SDH version of a Time-Space-Time crosspoint switch. It connects any channel on any of its inputs to any channel on any of its outputs. The SDH Crossconnect is used in Transit Exchanges, where all inputs and outputs are connected to other exchanges .
• SDH Add-Drop Multiplexer – The SDH Add-Drop Multiplexer (ADM) can add or remove any multiplexed frame down to 1.544Mb. Below this level, standard TDM can be performed. SDH ADMs can also perform the task of an SDH Crossconnect and are used in End Exchanges where the channels from subscribers are connected to the core PSTN network .

SDH Network functions are connected using high-speed Optic Fibre. Optic Fibre uses light pulses to transmit data and is therefore extremely fast . Modern optic fibre transmission makes use of Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) where signals transmitted across the fibre are transmitted at different wavelengths, creating additional channels for transmission . This increases the speed and capacity of the link, which in turn reduces both unit and total costs .