BT Reconsiders PBT Plans
Only a year ago, BT was presenting 21CN network diagrams at the Ethernet Expo: Europe 2007 event that showed PBT as the dominant Layer 2 transport technology in its £10 billion (US$19.9 billion) 21CN. (See PBT Stars at Ethernet Expo .)
That presentation followed BT's announcement that it had awarded PBT equipment deals to Nortel Networks Ltd. and Siemens Communications, now Nokia Networks , and that it was looking for greater support for the technology from all its key infrastructure suppliers. (See Nortel, Siemens Win PBT Deals at BT, Nortel on PBT: Today BT, Tomorrow the World!, and BT Pressures Vendors Over PBT.)
BT subsequently sold a PBT-based mobile backhaul service to T-Mobile (UK) , announced it had deployed PBT-based Ethernet gear, and leaped to the technology's defense when the economics surrounding its deployment and operation were questioned. (See BT Sells PBT-Based Backhaul Service, BT Goes Live With PBT, and BT Counters PBT Claims.)
But a lot has changed at BT in the past year. The company reorganized itself, began an overhaul of its 21CN processes, and saw the departure of a number of key executives. (See BT Revamps, Creates New Units , Upheaval at BT's 21CN?, Green Leaves BT, Verwaayen Set to Leave BT, and Reynolds Leaving BT to Run TNZ.)
Now there's a new team making key network and technology decisions, and that's prompted a rethink about a number of issues, including the role of PBT in the 21CN, according to sources.
Those re-evaluations prompted BT to issue a new ITT (invitation to tender) for Ethernet technology about a month ago, which, according to industry sources, has a much greater emphasis on MPLS as the underlying network technology for the delivery of Ethernet services, and a decreased emphasis on PBT compared to previous ITTs.
BT says it can't comment on whether PBT's role in 21CN is being re-evaluated, or provide any further details on the new Ethernet technology tender at the moment, because that ITT and a number of others related to 21CN are still in progress. The carrier has also put a cap on how much information is being divulged to the media about technology decisions -- hence the reluctance of the carrier's director of IP and data platforms, Karl Penaluna, to discuss PBT at this week's Ethernet Expo: Europe event in London. (See BT Touts 21CN Progress, New Service.)
Our sources say the new ITT was prompted by the growing influence within BT of technology decision-makers who have Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) backgrounds, particularly those who joined BT when the carrier acquired global enterprise services specialist Infonet.
Those sources, who requested anonymity, also said there was a growing level of tension within BT between the pro-PBT camp, including BT CTO Matt Bross, and those who had doubts about the technology's capabilities, considering PBT is a pre-standards technology that is still in its infancy.
But there is no suggestion that BT is going to abandon PBT -- just that it might not play as widespread a role as envisaged, say, a year ago. The carrier is still convinced that, in certain situations, such as backhaul, PBT is likely to be the most cost-effective packet transport technology to use and one that provides the appropriate connection-oriented management capabilities.
The likely outcome, according to industry contacts with knowledge of BT's plans, is that PBT will be used for a specific number of services and applications, but that it likely won't dominate the carrier's packet transport plans as much as previously envisaged.
If that is the outcome, it would be disappointing news for Nortel, PBT's chief tub-thumper, and a relief for the trio of MPLS equipment vendors involved in 21CN -- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) -- which, to varying degrees, have been campaigning against PBT for the past two years. (See AlcaLu's Alwan: PBT Will Lose Its Shine , AlcaLu: PBT Is Peripheral, and Vendors Clash Over PBT.)
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading