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Vendor scotches talk of PDSN replacement deal with startup Starent
May 13, 2004
Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) is playing down speculation that it intends to replace its Shasta PDSN (packet data serving node) product with kit from wireless router startup Starent Networks Corp.
Wireless routers (a.k.a. GGSNs [gateway GPRS support nodes] in GSM-derived networks, and PDSNs in CDMA systems) are packet core network devices. In their next-generation guises, they add sophisticated service creation, billing, and IP traffic management capabilities to this strategic point in the network (see Having a Flutter on the GGSNs).
The Canadian vendor acquired IP service switch company Shasta Networks in April 1999. Shasta was originally developed to provide network-based IP services such as VPNs and firewalls to wireline networks, but it was later integrated into Nortel's fixed and wireless infrastructure products.
A recent posting on the Unstrung message board suggests that Nortel is no longer using its Shasta PDSN product and plans to deploy kit from Starent – the only startup still competing in the wireless router space (see Starent Wins at Verizon PR and Starent's Startup Double-Up).
Another anonymous source says Nortel is in talks with Starent over the possible use of its PDSN product within "a handful" of the incumbent vendor's North American CDMA carrier customers.
Nortel spokesman Jay Barta plays down talk of a switch in allegiance. "Shasta is our standard ongoing PDSN and GGSN platform," he states.
Starent was unable to return calls by press time.
Ken Rehbehn of Current Analysis believes a deal with Starent would be a "prudent move," in light of recent rival acquisition activity (see Nokia Sweeps Up Tahoe and Alcatel Swallows WaterCove).
"The Nortel Shasta platform is getting a bit long in the tooth," he observes. "The basic hardware platform remains from the acquisition and represents a Swiss army knife of functionality, courtesy of a large number of processing elements. While it gives a lot of flexibility that Nortel leverages into capable GGSN and PDSN platforms, it is tough for Nortel to continually upgrade performance and capacity. At the end of the day, there is a lot to be said for simple systems, and the Shasta is anything but a simple system."
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung
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