One of the most important parameters determining the performance of communication networks is network reliability. The network reliability strongly depends on not only topological layout of the communication networks but also reliability and availability of the communication facilities. The selection of optimal network topology is an NP-hard problem so that computation time of enumeration-based methods grows exponentially with network size. This paper presents a new solution approach based on cross-entropy method, called NCE, to design of communication networks. The design problem is to find a network topology with minimum cost such that all-terminal reliability is not less than a given level of reliability. To investigate the effectiveness of the proposed NCE, comparisons with other heuristic approaches given in the literature for the design problem are carried out in a three-stage experimental study. Computational results show that NCE is an effective heuristic approach to design of reliable networks. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.