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Allied Telesyn Plays POTS Card

Light Reading
Supercomm News Analysis
Light Reading
6/21/2004
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CHICAGO -- Supercomm -- Allied Telesyn Inc. will announce Tuesday that it’s adding a card for POTS (plain old telephone service) that can be plugged into its AT-TN9000 access platform, which enables telecom carriers to deploy broadband data, video, and telephony services.

The AT-TN9000 will now support POTS, ADSL (including the newer ADSL2 standard), and fiber-to-the-whatever (FTTx) cards all on one access shelf. Allied calls it the "first true Ethernet/IP platform to support native POTS, FTTx, and ADSL2+ in one shelf." The AT-TN9000 boxes, which can be deployed with a range of Allied’s smaller access boxes and CPE (customer premises equipment) in a broadband access service, are strung together via 10-Gbit/s Ethernet using EPSR (Ethernet Protected Switched Ring), a protected Ethernet network.

If you carefully parse Allied's statement, you realize the "first" claim hinges heavily on the Ethernet angle. Other equipment vendors with triple-play access offerings -- among them, Calix Networks Inc.; Catena, now owned by Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN); and Occam Networks Inc. (OTC: OCCM) -- have announced similar plans for FTTx cards. It comes down to the fact of Allied saying it's the only "true Ethernet/IP platform" to support FTTx.

Ciena's broadband access division, formerly Catena Networks, says it can do ADSL, POTS, and FTTx all in one shelf, but its current platform is ATM-based. It says it's got an Ethernet-based version of the product in the pipeline.

"We do all those things, and you can see them at Supercomm," says Malcolm Loro, director of product marketing with Ciena. "So it sounds like a leap for them to claim they're the only one."

What’s clear from the Allied Telesyn announcement is that the race to deploy active, flexible, triple-play gear is heating up; and the market for independent operating companies (IOCs) is where the action is (see Triple Play Promise at IOCs). Allied’s got several IOC customers, including Matanuska Telephone Association Inc., Vernon Telephone Cooperative, Livingston Telephone Co., and SureWest Communications (Nasdaq: SURW), and it says its looking to increase its customer base in at least two-dozen telecom cooperatives, which are generally smaller regional operators scattered over rural areas.

The RBOCs have largely been focused on access boxes based on PON (passive optical networking) technology, which gives the service provider less control and flexibility -- and often less bandwdith. Allied’s also stressing the fact that its product is based heavily on Ethernet and IP, while many products targeting RBOCs are ATM-based.

"The IOCs understand that with an active platform, you can monitor the network," says Bill Allen, vice president of operations with Allied Telesyn. "RBOCs have gone to PON because they have an ATM-based network."

One Allied Telesyn customer, SureWest, has a mix of subscriber plant, including some that is newly built with fiber and some older copper loops requiring ADSL. SureWest officials say the active approach to triple-play services is becoming more attractive, mostly because it allows the provider to actively control the network and supply customers with higher, full-duplex bandwidth.

”With PON you have a finite amount of bandwidth that is shared among customers,” says Carl Murray, strategic technologies manager at SureWest. “With the active system, we are using Ethernet in the first mile, and can mix-and-match vendors. Our active system provides 100 Mbit/s per subscriber. The existing PON solutions supply less bandwidth."

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading

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