David Huber Pipes Up

Corvis CEO takes the stage at LightSpeed Europe to preach the benefits of all-optical networks

December 5, 2001

3 Min Read
David Huber Pipes Up

LONDON -- Lightspeed Europe 2001 -- The normally shy David Huber, CEO of Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV), left his timidity at the door today.

Huber came out guns blazing. After a morning appearance on CNN, he touted the benefits of pure optical switching technology and criticized competitors in his keynote presentation here today. Huber even called one competitor’s optical switch a "counterfeit" and stated that other optical networking companies are feeding the public "lies."

Huber's pitch was that Corvis' all-optical technology, which obviates the need for converting optical signals into electronic ones in order to be switched, is the key to recovery in the telecom industry.

Huber said that switches that convert optical signals into electrical ones are costly pieces of equipment responsible for the economic strife in the telecom industry. He said that existing electronic switches would lose value over time as prices for services fall.

“Who would have thought a year ago that the largest equipment companies would be teetering on bankruptcy,” said Huber. “They gave away gear that couldn’t be sold on its own merits and look where it got them.”

While he didn’t identify the competitors by name, Huber's description of the “counterfeit” switch appeared to describe Lucent Technologies Inc.'s (NYSE: LU) LambdaRouter.

"It’s counterfeit. The core is optical, but it misses the point by wrapping it in an electrical interface,” said Huber. “They’ve destroyed the economics [of using an all-optical fabric].”

He also said some of his competitors are perpetuating “The Big Lie” of the telecom industry. He said that “large” competitors, most likely Lucent, Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) have been touting a point-and-click provisioning solution that he said is misleading. He said that point-and-click really amounts to carriers pre-provisioning their networks. This means that they must install equipment in the field long before it is actually needed. Then when it’s time to add more capacity, they must roll trucks to install line cards and turn up services.

Corvis’s products include an all-optical switch and ultra-long haul DWDM transport gear. Huber cited the company’s Broadwing Communications Inc. (NYSE: BRW) deployment as the best example of this optical express network. Corvis was able to bring up 38 OC-192 (10 Gbit/s) circuits in less than 60 days for this deal (see Broadwing Cuts Provisioning Time).

Ian Habens, manager of transport engineering for Cable and Wireless (NYSE: CWP) says he was impressed with Huber’s story of an all-optical solution.

“I think he was spot on,” said Habens, after the presentation. “We’re interested in this concept. There seems to be a lot of savings in ultra long haul and though all-optical switching may not be essential now, we are definitely interested in it.”

Currently, Cable and Wireless is using Ciena's CoreDirector for optical switching. It also has a contract with Tellium, though it has yet to deploy any of that gear.

Huber's unusually candid talk comes as the company begins to regain confidence after a dismal 2001 in the networking business. Huber and his sales team promised there are more customers waiting in the wings.

Last month, analysts from CIBC World Markets published a report singing the company’s accolades after it visited Broadwing.

"Large long-haul carriers wishing to stay in business have no choice other than to create next-generation, overlay, all-optical express networks between NFL cities—ie Corvis’ sweetspot,” says the report. “Once a carrier surpasses 500 Gbit/s long haul capacity, the math proves it’s time for a new long haul architecture where the scalability of optics wins.”

Two questions remain: how many carrier customers are ready to spend on next generation optical transport networks? While Habens confirms the need for an all optical switch, he acknowledges that it isn’t easy being one of the first to implement it.

“They call it bleeding edge technology for a reason,” he said. “It can be painful to be one of the first.”

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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