Lucent Unveils Access God Box

Flush with success in the increasingly important IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) market, which is designed to tie together wireline and wireless applications, Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) today revealed its hand in another key technology area, the multiservice access platform (MSAP). (See SBC Jumps on Lucent IMS Bandwagon and Cingular Picks Lucent for IMS.)

The vendor's Multimedia Access Platform (MAP) is one of a number of singing and dancing MSAPs that Graham Beniston, Heavy Reading analyst at large, is calling "access God boxes," enabling broadband connections of all sorts, be it copper, fiber, or wireless (See Lucent Unveils Its MAP).

The new product, which will be commercially available in the first half of 2006, supports ADSL2+, VDSL2, Ethernet passive optical networking (EPON), Gigabit Ethernet PON (GPON), point-to-point Ethernet, and WiMax. Rumors that it can also make a mean double espresso are currently unsubstantiated.

Rob Piconi, VP and general manager at Lucent's Broadband Solutions division, says the product will go into carrier labs for trial early next year, but wouldn't name any operators already lined up.

However, Spain's Telefónica SA is offering up positive comment in Lucent's press release, so it seems likely it's putting the MAP through its paces. Telefónica is already using Lucent's Stinger DSLAMs to deliver its IPTV services. (See Telefónica Uses Lucent/Riverstone Combo.)

Piconi adds that, in addition to targeting Lucent's existing customer base with the new platform, "active PON markets such as North America and the Asia/Pacific region, especially Japan," would be key marketing territories.

Given those target markets, carriers that have been looking at PON and are likely to be considering the technology include BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), NTT Communications Corp., SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC), and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), among others. (See DT Flings Billions at Fiber Access, Bell Canada Deploys Lucent Stinger, RBOCs Gearing up for Gigabit PONs, Report: NTT Plans FTTH Blowout, and PON & FTTx Update.)

In terms of service support, Piconi claims the MAP has been developed to enable the provision of IP-based video and multimedia services that carriers will deliver using their IMS platforms. And while it's optimized for pure IP networks, the MAP also supports traditional TDM services, such as circuit-switched voice and ATM, he adds.

That support for legacy services is vital, says Heavy Reading's Beniston, who is compiling a report on MSAPs, due out next month: "Carriers are moving towards convergence quicker than even they had imagined, but while they need to have the capabilities to deliver services such as IPTV and VOIP, they also need to support all the legacy services they're still delivering, such as leased lines and ATM. They want as few boxes as possible, so these access God boxes that can support the legacy applications will be of great interest."

So how does the Lucent product shape up against the competition?

Beniston notes that, according to the product's specifications, it "doesn't appear to be that focused on supporting legacy services, which is one of the key factors."

For example, Lucent's MAP has a notable lack of support for leased line services, says Beniston. The likes of Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Calix Networks Inc., Iskratel Telekomunikacijski sistemi d.o.o., and Marconi score better in that realm, says Beniston.

And Beniston notes that the MAP doesn't have any 10GigE ports, "which is something you'd expect from a new product," though that capability is set to be added. The analyst notes that older MSAPs from Allied Telesyn, Marconi, and UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI), have 10GigE capabilities.

But while the Lucent platform's technical specs may trail behind leading MSAPs from rivals such as Alcatel, Iskratel, Marconi, UTStarcom, and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), says Beniston, it will likely finish in the top half of a field of 20 products being reviewed in the upcoming Heavy Reading report.

"That's not bad, actually, and we didn't focus on video support capabilities, and that's one area where this platform looks interesting," says Beniston.

In addition to having good video support, Beniston says the MAP has a number of other things going for it, including a SIP agent that will support IMS services. Given Lucent's big contract victories in the IMS market this week, that seems to be a theme developing in Lucent's new product lines.

Infonetics Research Inc. principal analyst Michael Howard believes the MAP has "all the specifications for a great platform," and is a product that Lucent needs to have in its arsenal if it is to compete with its nearest rivals.

He says Lucent's existing platforms, such as the Stinger DSLAM, "are much deployed, but long in the tooth, being designed in the pre-bubble era. Lucent has to respond to many competitors with new multiservice, multifunctional, access God boxes."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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