November 20, 2003
Siemens Information and Communications Networks Inc. is sending long-haul DWDM gear to AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) for testing (see AT&T Tests Siemens' Optical Solution). But whether it's time to break out the champagne is open to question.
At first glance, the news looks like a triumph for Siemens: The vendor seems to have made the finals in AT&T's long-awaited long-haul RFP, which has taken much longer than anticipated to come to fruition (see AT&T DWDM Hope Dwindles and More Missives on AT&T's Long Haul ). If that's the case, it's beaten out Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and others to win a coveted spot on a major North American incumbent's new optical transport network.
But the size and scope of the RFP aren't clear anymore. Even Siemens acknowledges there have been many iterations. And the key question of whether Siemens will ultimately replace any gear is tantalizingly unclear.
For the record, AT&T has nothing to say on this, beyond that it's testing Siemens's equipment and will only deploy it if and when it proves out in the lab -- a process that could take several months.
It's also not clear just who responded to the long-haul RFP, and neither AT&T nor Siemens will say. One thing, though: It appears to have included transport gear only, which indicates that switch vendors such as Corvis may not have been a factor after all. Instead, the competition appears to have focused on reconfigurable ADMs (ROADMs) for long-haul gear, a decidedly small list that includes startup Innovance Networks.
The product Siemens is offering AT&T is the Surpass hiT 7500, an ROADM with tunable lasers on 80 channels and interface capabilities to 10 Gbit/s. The box apparently also has Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) capabilities. According to various news reports, it has been installed with carriers in Russia, China, and Australia. Siemens spokespeople say it is being scrutinized by several North American incumbents as well (identities on the QT).
As noted, Siemens's gear does not feature switching, although Siemens spokespeople say it is being modified to fit AT&T's requirements.
AT&T's solution has been to install 105 CoreDirectors from Ciena, which, along with more than 700 ONS 15454s from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), are the mainstays of AT&T's optical network so far.
Could that change? Back in June, Siemens ICN announced a partnership with Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR) to create a transport-plus-optical switching solution for sale to carriers, one that includes Siemens transport gear integrated with Sycamore's SN 16000 optical switch (see Siemens, Sycamore Achieve Integration). This integrated product is not the solution AT&T has picked, according to the carrier, Siemens, and Sycamore. But it's now within the realm of imagination that it could be, one day.
"Sycamore was not part of the transport element AT&T requested. They felt that was solved in their network," says Susan Schramm, VP of marketing for Siemens.
At least one analyst thinks AT&T wants Ciena to see that change is possible. "Without being too psychological about it, AT&T is telling Ciena, 'Don't take us for granted. We can go to Siemens,' " says Mark Lutkowitz of consultancy Telecom Pragmatics Inc.
For its part, Ciena had no comment on any potential threat from Siemens.
But Schramm says Siemens would be ready if AT&T ever chose to open up a switching bid. It has the Sycamore alliance, and there are hints that other features are being added to the 7500 as it makes the rounds with various carriers.
Clearly, there's a lot of ground to cover before the issue is raised. Siemens must make it through its paces at AT&T Research Labs. The carrier must install the gear. And it's unlikely that Ciena, once warned, would stand by and let Siemens eat its lunch -- without a fight, anyway.
There's another message here as well -- namely, that a major incumbent is looking at long haul and ROADM, and that vendors who aren't taking those areas seriously could wind up paying a penalty.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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