Alcatel Cancels New Litespan DLC

It's lights out for the Alcatel 7201 as the company shifts focus to its IP DSLAM product

December 2, 2004

3 Min Read
Alcatel Cancels New Litespan DLC

The Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) next-generation Digital Loop Carrier (DLC), the 7201 Litespan Multiservice Access Platform, has made a quiet exit as the company shifts development to its latest IP DSLAM effort.

As carriers move increasingly toward fiber and IP-based solutions to deliver the triple play, the Litespan, with its roots in the ATM and TDM world, wasn't cutting the mustard. "The Litespan 7201 product is no longer squarely hitting the demands of the marketplace," says Alcatel spokesman Charlie Guyer. "Folks like Verizon and SBC are moving more toward the IP-based solutions."

The human impact of Alcatel's decision is significant. About 130 jobs are affected as Alcatel let some folks go in Petaluma, Calif., and Plano, Texas, while redeploying others to work on the company's 7330 IP DSLAM.

The 7330 is Alcatel's remote IP DSLAM for use in fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) deployments. The product is a major component of SBC's Project Lightspeed plan (see Alcatel Wins $1.7B SBC Deal).

Guyer told Light Reading on mid November there had been a "minor reduction" in workforce, announced at a "town hall" meeting held in Petaluma. Though Guyer said that the 7201's demise was "old news," Alcatel had been promoting the product as recently as October 11 at United States Telecom Association (USTA)'s Telecom '04 in Las Vegas.

Perhaps the old news is that Alcatel is coming around to the limitations of the Litespan product in a world where RBOCs want fiber-fed access networks delivering IP services.

"The 7201 product was never going to get to the multiservice access point," says Graham Beniston, Heavy Reading analyst at large. "The Litespan architecture is only cost effective up to about 25 percent DSL take rate; for 50 to 100 percent DSL broadband uptake, you need Alcatel's 7302 or the Catena [Ciena] CNX 1000 or Calix Networks or Occam Networks or Entrisphere.

"This is Alcatel playing catchup again," Beniston says of the vendor's shift to the 7330 IP DSLAM.

"Alcatel has convinced SBC that they are the supplier for fiber-to-the-node; they sold SBC the 7330… but the product isn't exactly all done yet," says Kermit Ross, principal of Millennium Marketing."I'm putting two-and-two together here and saying that they are taking people from the 7201 product in order to finish the 7330 for SBC."

Guyer disputes that claim; he says the 7330 is a finished, shipping product.

Interestingly, like the 7201, the 7330 hasn't been introduced with much élan. In mid 2003, an Alcatel spokeswoman told Light Reading that the product was still in development and was not to be discussed with the media. The only mention of the 7201 in press release and press coverage during the past two years was during the October USTA conference.

Likewise, the only mention of the new 7330 in press releases and coverage during the past two years was in Alcatel's SBC win announcement.

Alcatel's shift of focus from the 7201 DLC to the 7330 IP DSLAM doesn't necessarily spell doom for third-generation DLC vendors, nor does it mean Alcatel is abandoning the DLC business (see Alcatel Tops DLC Ranking). Large service providers are preparing their networks for the most cost-effective delivery of voice, data, and video, and the migration toward a DSLAM approach is a dominant theme, says Millennium's Ross. Smaller carriers, however, will continue to leverage DLC solutions.

Indeed, the decision for Alcatel to abandon the 7201 product may have had more to do with the 7201 falling behind its DLC peers than with the superiority of a DSLAM approach for multiservice access, says Heavy Reading's Beniston.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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