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BBWF: Ericsson Enters AT&T's GPON Domain

Swedish giant kicks its broadband week off to a flyer with news that it's one of the two chosen suppliers in AT&T's Wireline Access domain

September 7, 2009

4 Min Read
BBWF: Ericsson Enters AT&T's GPON Domain

PARIS -- Broadband World Forum Europe -- Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has been chosen by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) to be one of the U.S. carrier's two key suppliers of wireline access equipment and associated services, the Swedish vendor announced Monday morning here in Paris. (See BBWF Preview: GPON a Go-Go! and Looking for Broadband's Missing Link at BBWF.)

Late last week AT&T unveiled its "Domain Supplier" program, a new supply chain initiative that will see the operator choose just two key vendor partners in each of an unspecified number of technical domains. (See AT&T Unveils Domain Supplier Strategy.)

In announcing the program, AT&T identified only one domain, "Wireline Access," which "includes technologies such as IP/DSLAM and FTTx," the carrier noted.

That Ericsson has been chosen in this domain will come as something of a relief for the vendor's management and its networks business unit, as one of the main reasons for buying GPON specialist Entrisphere in early 2007 was to win significant business with AT&T. And while the giant U.S. operator named Ericsson as an official GPON vendor in July 2007, activity since then has been minimal. (See Ericsson: Ready to Ramp GPON, Ericsson Buys Entrisphere, and Ericsson Spells Defense G-P-O-N.)

Ericsson hasn't particularly lit up the GPON world elsewhere, either: Since the Entrisphere acquisition, the Swedish vendor has announced only a few GPON engagements, including deals in Armenia, China, India, and Nigeria. (See Ericsson Scores GPON Wins in China, Ericsson Wins GPON, IPTV Deal, Ericsson Does FTTH in India, Ericsson Wins GPON Deal, and Ericsson Adds to Euro GPON Action.)

Now Ericsson will compete with the other yet-to-be-named wireline access domain vendor "for AT&T capital spending on all wireline access applications and products, including collaborating with third-party suppliers to provide technologically leading solutions to AT&T."

It's inconceivable that the other wireline access vendor won't be Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). AT&T, though, isn't discussing any unannounced vendor relationships.

For Ericsson, the deal is about more than just its GPON platform -- the EDA 1500 -- and associated professional services, as the vendor is now an official DSLAM supplier too.

"Having already approved Ericsson's GPON Fiber to the Home (FTTH) solution for general deployment, AT&T will now embark on integrating Ericsson's DSL portfolio for Fiber to the Node (FTTN) and IP DSLAM solutions to support AT&T's U-verse offerings, such as IPTV, High Speed Internet and VoIP over an all IP network infrastructure," notes the vendor in its press release issued today.

"We're ready for purchase order activity. This agreement should herald commercial field deployments" for our broadband access equipment, Don McCullough, Ericsson's head of IP Broadband marketing, tells Light Reading.

AT&T's decision gives Ericsson a foothold in the two markets that, in McCullough's view, will determine the health of the global fiber access technology market -- the U.S. and China.

"North America and China are the two dominant FTTX markets – they will lead the way globally. North America is already the dominant GPON market. These two markets [will determine] whether this market will take off," reckons the Ericsson man.

The news also gives extra credibility to Ericsson's claims to be among the leading players in the broadband access market alongside the likes of AlcaLu and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , though it still, of course, has some work to do to land those AT&T purchase orders: The carrier has made it clear that being chosen as a domain partner is no guarantee of business.

Resulting business looks very likely, though, especially as Ericsson's proposition extends well beyond its physical wireline access platforms. The vendor is already well regarded as one of the leading providers of professional and managed services in the telecom sector, and, as Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie notes in his recent report, "FTTH Review & Five-Year Forecast: The Road to Next-Gen PON," "Ericsson emphasizes its credentials as a prime integrator for complex FTTH products, as well as its wide range of related products, from cables and cable-laying technology on the infrastructure side to service-delivery platforms on the services side." (See Fiber, Fiber Everywhere…, The Substance of 'Hollow Operators', and Vendors Scrap Over Managed Services Deals.)

The engagement with AT&T also begs the question of whether Ericsson might also, in time, become a second source of IPTV-related systems for the U.S. carrier: AlcaLu and its partner Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) are AT&T's current telco TV technology suppliers. (See AlcaLu Gets U-verse Extension, AT&T Launches HDTV, and SBC Awards Microsoft $400M IPTV Deal .)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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