AlcaLu Plugs Its Backhaul Hole

Alcatel-Lucent fills out its wireless backhaul portfolio with the launch of a single-unit multiservice edge aggregation box

September 22, 2008

4 Min Read
AlcaLu Plugs Its Backhaul Hole

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) added to the spate of recent wireless backhaul technology announcements Monday by unveiling the latest addition to its Mobile Evolution Transport Architecture (META) -- a single-unit network edge multiservice device that had been the missing link in its end-to-end story.

When AlcaLu first announced its META about a year ago, one of the network elements announced was the 7705 Service Aggregation Router (SAR), a two-unit-high multiservice box that aggregates customer voice and data (TDM and IP) traffic at the edge of the network and backhauls it using in-built pseudowire capabilities. (See AlcaLu Targets Wireless Backhaul and AlcaLu Unveils 7705.)

Now AlcaLu has evolved that platform to launch a cheaper pizza-box product, the 7705 SAR-F (that's an F for "fixed form factor"), which is smaller and less flexible than its predecessor but more suitable for cell site deployments, especially in remote locations. It still has all the multiservice functionality, though, as the evolution to all-IP backhaul is going to take many years, notes Lindsay Newall, VP of marketing at AlcaLu's IP division. (See Carriers Don't Trust Ethernet Backhaul? and Of Backhaul & Bean Counters.)

The SAR-F supports 16 T1/E1 lines, so is suitable for smaller cell sites, while the larger, more flexible 7705 unit, which began shipping in February this year, supports up to 96 T1/E1 lines and is targeted at larger cell sites or at aggregation points at the edge of the network, says Newall.

The AlcaLu man says the original 7705 box has been deployed by several operators, including PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk. (Telkom) and Telecom New Zealand Ltd. (NYSE: NZT; New Zealand: TEL), while the new product will become commercially available from November.

Newall believes the new addition to the META family solidifies the "full, end-to-end backhaul solution" story that AlcaLu is taking to the market, noting that other players in the space might have network edge boxes, but nothing "at the other end" that's tailored to the specific needs of carriers building backhaul networks that support mobile voice and data traffic.

In particular, Newall believes the Mobile Wireless Router (MWR) device just launched by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is "a box, but not a solution," and he launches the same criticism at the BX 7000 Multi-Access Gateway unveiled earlier this year by Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). (See Cisco Raises Ethernet Backhaul Stakes and Juniper Intros Backhaul Box.)

But it's not just AlcaLu's regular IP router rivals that have developed platforms tailored for mobile traffic backhaul, as RAD Data Communications Ltd. and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) have led the way with single-unit edge aggregation wireless backhaul boxes, while vendors such as Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), and Nokia Networks are also players to watch, notes Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan.

The analyst says a single-unit offering is important to any vendor looking to win business from backhaul customers -- so much so that Alcatel-Lucent has, to date, been reselling RAD's product when such a box has been requested by customers. Now the addition of the 7705 SAR-F to its offering gives AlcaLu a "strong portfolio," says Donegan.

“This is the one significant hole that Alcatel-Lucent had in its mobile backhaul portfolio. This definitely ups the competitive heat on the likes of Tellabs, RAD Data, and Cisco,” notes the backhaul specialist.

"Cellular operators face a choice as to whether to rely solely on their RAN [radio access network] vendor to control their backhaul network costs or deploy cell site gateway products to control that optimization themselves, or via a third-party wholesale carrier. We’re seeing both models being adopted -- and the one-unit device is a key for one any vendor trying to serve the cell site gateway market."

One vendor not looking to add an additional, tailored, multiservice gateway into the backhaul mix is Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), which offers a combination of its own mobile access and transport equipment to provide backhaul capabilities.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Backhaul Strategies for Mobile Operators, which will provide a unique perspective on the progress that North America's carrier and vendor community is making in relieving the so-called "backhaul bottleneck" in mobile networks. To be staged in New York, September 23, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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