Ethernet equipment

BT Counters PBT Claims

BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has rejected claims that it is uncovering additional costs associated with its deployment of the controversial carrier Ethernet technology, Provider Backbone Transport (PBT), and stated that its initial deployment of the technology in Italy is not proving to be unusually troublesome.

Earlier this week Light Reading reported that, according to industry sources, BT "has encountered some PBT service set-up problems in Italy," where it is deploying the connection-oriented flavor of Ethernet using Nortel Networks Ltd. technology. (See PBT Cost Claims Questioned, BT Goes Live With PBT and PBT: New Kid on the Metro Block.)

We also reported that BT is believed to be "finding that the costs associated with PBT deployments are not quite as attractive as first envisaged," now that its PBT strategy has moved off the planning board and into the field.

The carrier, though, says its capital and operational budgets around PBT haven't changed. "There are no indications that the costs of PBT are materially different from what we expected," says the carrier in response to questions from Light Reading.

That suggests BT has factored into its budgets the operational costs associated with deploying a pre-standards technology that currently does not come equipped with tried and tested management and monitoring tools.

As for deployment issues in Italy, the carrier's response is more measured. "We are not having any implementation issues in Italy over and above what is normal in the early stages of implementing a new technology," states BT in its emailed response.

Implementing a new carrier technology in a live network, though, is unquestionably a tough technical and operational challenge -- ask any operator's field technicians. And in this instance, BT, as PBT's leading carrier supporter and the main non-vendor driving force behind its progress through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standards process, is, in effect, acting as a live test bed for PBT.

BT's experiences in Italy will be invaluable for Nortel, which has been making the most of the growing interest in PBT during the past year. (See Nortel Preps New PBT Switch and Nortel Lands More PBT Action.)

It's also creating interest among other major carriers, who are interested in the point-to-point data transport economics that BT is keen on exploiting in its backhaul networks, according to Heavy Reading analyst and walking Ethernet directory Stan Hubbard.

"We are seeing a lot of interest from carriers in learning about [PBT], and BT's support for PBT has driven that interest," noted Hubbard at this week's The Future of Carrier Ethernet: Eastern Europe 2007 event in Warsaw, Poland. "It's more than just a buzzword." (See Ethernet's Winning Ways .)

But, added the analyst, "The technology of choice to support Ethernet so far has been MPLS. 2007 was a great year for PBT marketing -- now we will have to see how that plays out in the market," with point-to-point services the initial first point of traction. "MPLS holds the key on multipoint services at the moment."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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