Scientific-Atlanta agrees to OEM Tropic's gear to the cable MSO market

April 19, 2005

3 Min Read
Tropic Finds a Cable Consort

Tropic Networks Inc. has secured a major ally in the cable space this morning, as the company has announced that it's struck a partnership with Scientific-Atlanta Inc. (NYSE: SFA). (See SA OEMs Tropic ROADMs.)

For Tropic, the deal makes sense, since it was previously selling direct to cable providers and it needed a larger partner to help it convince operators it can support their network needs. For Scientific-Atlanta, the move helps because it gives the company a product it didn't previously have -- and hasn't yet developed.

Under the terms of the OEM agreement, Scientific-Atlanta will sell, distribute, and support Tropic's gear for the MSO (multiple service operator) market. The two companies started working together late last year, according to Rob Lane, Tropic's VP of marketing -- and just in time, too.

"Cable network operators have already begun deploying ROADM-based metro systems as they focus on adding interactive digital video services," writes Scott Clavenna, chief analyst of Heavy Reading, in his coming report on the ROADM (reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexer) market. "This, in turn, has increased pressure on major incumbent telcos to follow suit."

"Every day you see operators ratcheting up what they're offering on downstream bandwidth," says Bob Collmus, Scientific-Atlanta's director of marketing for transport networks. "They're becoming fiber pressed… and they need to manage their assets well."

Indeed, one of the top competitors in the space, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (FNC), already has bagged some cable customers with its ROADM solution, including Bright House Networks, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. (NYSE: COX), and Shaw Communications Inc. (see Fujitsu Firms Its ROADM Resolve).

Comcast has a stake in, and buys gear from, Movaz Networks Inc., another ROADM vendor (see Sources: Comcast Has Movaz Stake).

Tropic says it has cable MSO customers as well, but won't name them.

Scientific-Atlanta, for its part, counts Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), and Comcast as its largest customers.

The thing that helped sell Scientific-Atlanta on the partnership was Tropic's ability to provide more detailed monitoring, Scientific-Atlanta executives say.

As signals enter Tropic's systems, an optical identifier is attached to each channel, enabling that wavelength to be identified anywhere it turns up in the network. The identifier enables Tropic to monitor power consumption and connectivity associated with specific wavelengths and the network cards that support those wavelengths in the vendor's equipment. That gives Tropic (and its customers) the ability to see exactly where network errors occur, without requiring an optical-to-electronic signal conversion.

"You have to look at the health of network, not just the endpoints," says Tropic's Lane. "You don't have to have expensive test equipment rolling around these networks and fault finding."

Tropic admits there are "some exclusivities" to the partnership, but won't elaborate on what they are. Also, the company says that SA has not invested in Tropic at this time.

Nearly a year ago, Tropic partnered with Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) to sell its gear to telecom carriers, and Alcatel invested an undisclosed amount at that time (see Alcatel Tops Up Tropic).

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

For further education, visit the related Light Reading Webinar archive:The Role of ROADMs in Optical Networks

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