Meriton, Fujitsu Make a Match

Join forces on WDM, metro, and access; could be cuddling up in hopes of getting into BT's next-gen love nest

February 24, 2005

4 Min Read
Meriton, Fujitsu Make a Match

BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is rapidly gaining a reputation as a matchmaker. The latest question is whether it's helped pair Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Ltd. and Meriton Networks Inc.

The Canadian startup and the European subsidiary of the Japanese giant announced their partnership today (see Fujitsu Resells Meriton in Europe).

Marc Curtis, director of business development at Fujitsu Telecom Europe, says his firm needed a WDM component to meet the anticipated metro backhaul requirements of carriers with NGN plans, such as BT. Meriton has DWDM and CWDM equipment and an ROADM story to boot (see Cisco, Meriton Join ROADM Gang).

"We assessed the market and found that Meriton met all our requirements. They're a good fit technically and culturally. We also know that Meriton has been engaged in dialogue with BT, and that BT was very comfortable with its technology," says Curtis.

"This completes our MSAN story for next-generation networks, as carriers will need to bring WDM, and particularly CWDM, into their metro networks and closer to the access nodes. They'll need fatter metro pipes and will need to address that with WDM technology. We'll be taking this joint solution into our discussions with all our major customers."

For Meriton, it's a breakthrough into Europe. The WDM vendor currently has about 15 deployments, all in North America and Asia/Pacific, but "we've had our technology in the labs of the major European PTTs," says president Michael Gassewitz (see AltaLink Deploys Meriton HSM, Meriton Wins WDM Deals, and Telecom Ottawa Picks Meriton).

Gassewitz adds that other partnerships are in the works, and that Meriton's relationship with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) in Korea is already generating revenues, though he couldn't name any customers (see Meriton, IBM Korea Form Alliance).

So how much of an influence did BT have on the relationship with Fujitsu? Gassewitz declines to comment specifically, saying only that he sees the partnership delivering Tier 1 European carrier business. Besides BT, Fujitsu also names France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE) and Portugal Telecom Group as DSL gear customers.

But certainly, the pair must have their eyes on a significant piece of business expected to be generated at BT. The carrier is set to announce the lead hardware vendor suppliers for its ambitious $19 billion 21CN project within the next five weeks, before the end of its financial year (March 31). As a supplier of DSLAMs and network support services to BT, Fujitsu is well placed to land a piece of the 21CN action with its new multiservice access node (MSAN). It is widely believed to be on BT's access equipment shortlist (see BT Has 21CN Shortlists, Fujitsu, Skanska Win BT Contract, and Fujitsu Europe to Unveil MSAN).

BT has told vendors that they must find suitable partners and deliver integrated systems if they want to stand a chance of being a 21CN equipment supplier. That demand has already led to at least one significant, and rather odd, coupling.

Industry insiders and analysts believe the carrier's specific requests for its next-generation network (NGN) were the catalyst for the perhaps otherwise unlikely coupling of Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) and softswitch specialist Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS), which was announced last November (see HR Unties Sonus/Marconi Tie-Up and Marconi & Sonus Team for Next-Gen).

If the Fujitsu tieup does lead to work with BT, that'll be a major coup for Meriton, which is a privately held firm, says Scott Clavenna, chief analyst at Heavy Reading. "Meriton has been pretty low key, just focusing on some small operators in North America. People have counted them out for a while," he says.

Clavenna points out that Fujitsu has its own ROADM technology, the Flashwave 7500, which is "a high-end metro core product, while Meriton's is low cost and likely more adept at metro edge access applications. It looks complementary."

But whether Meriton might score at BT at the expense of other WDM vendors (if it scores at all) is hard to say, as BT hasn't outlined its sourcing strategy and to what extent it will source from multiple vendors for certain network elements. Other suppliers in the WDM market, and with ROADM offerings in particular, include Marconi, Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Mahi Networks Inc., among others (see Who Makes What: ROADMs).

The 21CN team at BT had not returned requests for comment as this article was published, but the carrier does have strict non-disclosure arrangements with any companies involved in the 21CN process, and is not likely to comment on whether certain companies are in line for NGN contracts or whether they have had their technology tested in BT's labs.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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