ECI, Keymile Debut IP DSLAMs
With Europe's telecom movers and shakers preparing to converge on Madrid for next week's Broadband World Forum event, two vendors have unveiled the new triple-play-enabled access products they plan to flaunt. (See ECI Unveils IP DSLAM and Keymile Unveils New IP DSLAM).
ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq: ECIL) and Keymile AG are hoping to attract the attention of broadband service providers visiting Spain, but with the competition so intense in the next-generation access equipment market, will their new products stand out from the crowd?
ECI improves with Hi-Focus5
ECI's new IP DSLAM is a high-capacity packet-based access platform that supports up to 960 subscribers and can deliver more than 30 Mbit/s per subscriber using ADSL2+ (with 64 lines per card), more than 40 Mbit/s per subscriber using VDSL2 (48 lines per card), and more than 80 Mbit/s per VDSL2 line, with a maximum of 24 lines per card.
Those capabilities are supported by a number of new and enhanced features that ECI desperately needed to deliver to remain competitive, according to Heavy Reading analyst at large Graham Beniston.
He says ECI has some catching up to do in the IP DSLAM market, citing his recent report, "IP DSLAMs: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis."
For that report, Beniston compared 17 different central office IP DSLAMs from 14 vendors. His technical evaluation put ECI's existing product, the Hi-Focus4, at the bottom of the pile.
For the record, the three most highly rated central office IP DSLAM products came from UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI), Allied Telesyn International Inc., and Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA).
But ECI's new Hi-Focus5, which will be available before the end of 2005, addresses most of the current product's shortcomings.
"It's about time ECI got up to speed and matched the capabilities of the other vendors, and it looks like they've done this, and even bettered many of the others in some respects, such as with the 128 Gbit/s switching capacity," says Beniston.
ECI has added a number of key functions that the previous product lacked, particularly in key areas such as Ethernet support and security. "The existing product, which is in use by the likes of (NYSE: FTE) and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), is an ATM-based DSLAM with some IP and Ethernet capabilities. The new product is a fully IP-based platform that makes us more competitive in the IP DSLAM market," says Aviv Ronai, associate VP of marketing at ECI's Broadband Access division.
So what's new? ECI's current central-office DSLAM has a major shortcoming -- it has just one 1-Gbit/s port. Beniston says those ports are the "workhorse interface of the IP DSLAM." The new product, though, not only has multiple 1-Gbit/s ports, but also multiple 10-Gbit/s ports, though ECI won't say exactly how many. It's a secret.
The 10-Gbit/s interfaces will be particularly useful for local connections within the central office -- for example, to video-on-demand servers -- reckons Ofer Reviv, VP of marketing and sales support at ECI's Broadband Access Division.
Other enhancements include the addition of Ethernet link aggregation, a now common feature that simplifies routing and addressing in the access network, and the addition of DiffServ and MPLS with traffic engineering for QOS.
The ECI team is also stressing the platform's high availability, provided by redundancy in the switching fabric, which is becoming more important as real-time services such as voice and video are delivered by DSLAMs.
They also note the support for traditional TDM voice traffic as well as VOIP: All voice traffic is managed by the product's voice aggregation card -- ECI's term for an integrated media server -- which packetizes the voice and sends it to a softswitch.
Ronai also talks up the software-programmable nature of the DSLAM's processors, which allows users to add support for new technologies, such as WiMax and new flavors of DSL, with software updates.
But Beniston is skeptical that any one product can really deliver all the capabilities that carriers need these days. "There's a whole raft of emerging technologies and existing voice capabilities that carriers will need, for example, that I can't see being added to DSLAMs." Vendors are trying to develop an "access God box that can integrate everything into one platform, but I don't think this can be done yet. It's not technically possible," reckons the analyst.
Keymile renames its IP DSLAM
Those familiar with Keymile's mid-sized Keynode IP DSLAM, which is also due to be launched commercially before the end of this year, will recognize the MileGate 2500. But that's because it's the same product.
And a pretty decent product, too, according to Beniston's report, which also scrutinized mid-sized and small IP DSLAMs used in collocation facilities and in street cabinets close to the subscriber.
Keymile's product topped the rankings in the mid-sized, indoor IP DSLAM category that compared eight products from seven vendors, and the outside plan (street cabinet) category that compared seven products from seven vendors.
Beniston noted that the MileGate, as it's now known, scored highly in the DSL features, QOS, and security categories.
Among those familiar with the platform will be BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and the team at Fujitsu Ltd.'s (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ) European operations.
Fujitsu is one of two vendors delivering a broad selection of access technologies for BT's next-generation 21CN network, and is taking in Keymile, which has its roots in traditional voice technology, as one of its partners. The Keymile technology that Fujitsu will provide as its street cabinet technology, to feed TDM and IP traffic back to its central office multiservice access platform, is the MileGate. (See Fujitsu Shares Its 21CN Success.)
Beniston notes that this reflects just how important legacy voice support will be to large carriers migrating from their legacy networks to all-IP networks. He says the number of companies that have the experience to deliver legacy support and next-generation technology themselves is limited, and cites Alcatel, Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI), and Siemens Communications Group as the companies best placed in this regard.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading