Tellabs Trips at Sprint

There's been no single winner picked by Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON)for its triple-play request for proposal (RFP), but two sources close to the deal have confirmed that Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) has indeed been eliminated from contention.

While Tellabs has made great headway lately in BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), losing any new access network business at Sprint has to be a huge disappointment. Over the past few years, Sprint -- mostly through its equipment reseller subsidiary, Sprint North Supply -- has historically been a huge customer of Advanced Fibre Communications, which is now the access division of Tellabs. In the combined years of 2001 and 2002, Sprint alone represented $132 million in revenues for AFC -- nearly 20 percent of the vendor's overall revenues.

Light Reading sources say Sprint is still in first office applications (FOA -- carrier lingo for trials) with Calix Networks Inc. and Entrisphere Inc. in fulfillment of its triple-play RFP. The RFP, sources say, called for a broadband digital loop carrier device that could provide fiber- and copper-based services in both greenfield and overlay networks (see Sources: Sprint Readies Triple-Play Pick and Calix, Entrisphere Sprint Forward).

If the FOAs continue to go well, Calix and Entrisphere -- and their big brother partners Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), which is reselling Calix, and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), which is working with Entrisphere -- are in for a nice haul and a visible place in one of North America's largest networks.

The specifics of how the new access business will break out are a bit murky, given that no contract awards have been made. One source says that Entrisphere looks to be the favorite for fiber to the premises greenfield builds. Calix, the source says, is dominant in overlay areas, where there is a mix of fiber and copper access, and where larger system line counts were required. Light Reading, however, couldn't independently confirm Sprint's thoughts on the division of labor.

Spokespeople for Tellabs and Sprint did not return calls for comment as this article was published. Calix was reached but couldn't comment on the RFP. Ditto for Entrisphere.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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