Cable Tech

Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device

After five years of solitude and VC in sunny Santa Clara, Calif., the startup Entrisphere Inc. Tuesday unveiled its flagship product -- a broadband multiservice access device called the BLM 1500.

The supplier will vie for access business in an already competitive field that includes products from Calix Networks Inc., Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Occam Networks Inc. (OTC: OCCM), Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Advanced Fibre Communications Inc. (AFC), and others.

Entrisphere says it began shipping broadband digital loop carrier devices in the fourth quarter of 2003, but it has only one announced customer to date.

It’s safe to say that the company’s product became generally available well after those of Calix, which now has 150 customers, or Occam, which has 75.

In a class of product that Heavy Reading analyst Scott Clavenna calls “the Swiss army knife of access equipment,” what does this latecomer have that the others don’t? The answer may reside in a number of small advances, rather than any large one.

“You have to remember this is an arms race,” says Millennium Marketing analyst Kermit Ross. Ross would not say that the BLM 1500 has leap-frogged the competition, but, he says, “this does tend to enliven the access marketplace.”

Service providers use multiservice access boxes either in the central office or in remote terminals to aggregate a variety of traffic types such as POTS, PON, ADSL, DS1 and DS3, and Ethernet. By consolidating all these functions into a single network element, service providers can simplify their access networks and reduce the cost of delivering the services.

Entrisphere director of product marketing Don McCullough points out that the BLM 1500 contains an H.248 media gateway that has certified compatibility with Nortel Networks Ltd.'s (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and Tekelec Inc.'s (Nasdaq: TKLC) softswitches. “Nortel is currently developing a similar interface for Calix, but Entrisphere draws first blood on this one,” says Ross.

Calix's VP of marketing Kevin Walsh says the C7 already contains a certified H.248 interface to Nortel softswitches.

Entrisphere's McCullough also points out that the Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP), a standard that allows multiple IPTV channels to be broadcast through a single line, is embedded in the BLM 1500. Walsh says the C7s have embedded IGMP as well, and that the feature “is mandatory for IPTV.”

“I make it out to be a marginally more fully featured box than the C7,” says Ross, comparing the two devices.

Differences aside, Calix and Entrisphere are in the same boat; wins with the RBOCs are clearly a major ingredient in both companies’ recipes for long-term success.

This is clear from the hoopla around today’s announcement that it has landed a deal with top 10 player Telephone & Data Systems Inc. (TDS) (Amex: TDS), an incumbent service provider with 1.2 million lines nationwide. Entrisphere says it has been shipping products to TDS since the second quarter of 2004.

“We are targeting Tier 1 and Tier 2; we’re targeting the Top 25,” says McCullough.

Entrisphere’s RBOC ambitions are apparent in the design of the BLM 1500 -- one of the first things you notice about the box is its large size. Three of them fit in a 7-foot cabinet, while five of the C7s can fit in the same space. It’s the difference between a dorm room fridge and a small microwave.

Here are some head-to-head comparisons between a full cabinet of Entrisphere BLM 1500s and a full rack of Calix C7s:

The three Entrisphere devices support 4,032 POTS lines, or 2,016 ADSL2+ lines, or 672 Ethernet lines.

The five C7s support 2,400 POTS lines, or 2,400 ADSL2+ lines, or 1,200 Ethernet lines.

“I would point to the form factor as a key difference between the Calix box and the Entrisphere box,” says Clavenna. “The Calix box was built using their own ASICs silicon, which is denser, while Entrisphere used off-the-shelf silicon.”

The C7 sports 200 Gbit/s of backplane capacity (10 Gbit/s to each of 20 slots) compared to the BLM 1500’s 65 Gbit/s (3 Gbit/s duplex connection to 16 universal slots).

“So they’ve [Calix] been able to get it smaller, and this is a big thing because some operators want to deploy these in places like remote terminals,” Clavenna says.

Both Entrisphere and Calix declined to give pricing information, saying the numbers vary widely among differing applications and configurations of their products.

Now for some perspective on Entrisphere’s win at TDS: While McCullough says his company signed a “multiyear, primary supplier contract” with the carrier (he wouldn’t give any details on the value of the deal), Entrisphere is by no means the only access gear vendor involved.

“They and a lot of other vendors can say they won at TDS,” Clavenna says. “It has to be taken in that context -- it just means they got some boxes in some of the TDS networks.”

Calix, for one, has supplied 50 C7s to TDS over the last 15 months. Ross says TDS’s use of multiple, competing vendors is no accident.

“The operators are trying to commoditize products so that they can buy on price -- the operators are pros at that,” Ross says. “That’s the reason that Entrisphere is one of the suppliers at TDS, not the sole provider; TDS will keep Calix around to keep the prices down.”

Ross adds that TDS does not make top-down purchasing decisions for all parts of its network. Rather, he says, it is run “more like a federation of smaller networks” in which decisions are made on an application-by-application basis.

On another front, Entrisphere’s efforts -- fronted by Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) -- to win new fiber access gear business from Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) are paying dividends. Sprint has selected both Calix and Entrisphere for first office applications (FOA) in fulfillment of its triple-play request for proposal (RFP). Sources say the RFP calls for a combination of a broadband loop carrier and a fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) device.

Maybe there’s a place in the world for both products.

Entrisphere has 120 employees and has raised a cumulative $96 million in venture capital since its inception in 2000.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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jes 12/5/2012 | 3:25:09 AM
re: Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device
I could not understand why Entrisphere is moving ahead with the DLC platforms, where all the RBOCS (which Enterisphere is eyeing at) have moved towards an IP DSLAM approach in their next generation access networks. I accept Sprint here is an exception. The recent cancellation of Alcatel Litespan 7201 itself shows that carriers have decided on moving towards IP DSLAM.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:25:08 AM
re: Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device
1 - Verizon is not moving forward with an IP DSLAM.

2 - DLC market is in decline as evidenced by the 7201 cancelation.

rbkoontz 12/5/2012 | 3:25:07 AM
re: Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device The author missed two key points:
1. ATM access products in the RBOCs are dead. No new ones will be approved.
2. Calix and Entrisphere are ATM based.

The IOCs are the last places these hot-startups can sell their ATM BLCs. But when IP DSLAMs hit RBOC volumes in 2006, even the IOC market will quickly shift to IP DSLAM overlay architecture.

Entrisphere is optimized for larger scale applications such as COs, CEVs, and very large RTs. Meanwhile Calix can scale down to mid-sized RTs but loses to Entrisphere on large line size applications.

What about FTTP? Same story - RBOCs want to shift from BPON to GPON in 2006. And they don't want GPON on an ATM box...

Both of these sexy startups need a liquidity event in 2H05 while they are still growing revenues and can still pull the wool over uninformed investor eyes about the size of their markets. Otherwise, they're toast...
Hugh_Jassole 12/5/2012 | 3:25:06 AM
re: Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device If ATM Access products are dead, then how do you explain Sprint's recent shortlisting of both Calix and Entrisphere's ATM BLCs?
palaeozoic 12/5/2012 | 3:25:05 AM
re: Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device I don't get it...both products support Gig E, IGMP, and VOIP...Calix seems to be shipping 'em like hotcakes...the acronym ATM doesn't show up on either web site.

Why do you call them ATM boxes?

rbkoontz 12/5/2012 | 3:25:02 AM
re: Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device The IP access model is a relatively new phenomena that the RBOCs have surprisingly embraced with all their might. Sprint LTD loves ATM still. The IOC market is highly fragmented but a great sales channel is the biggest key. Sprint and many IOCs will hang onto the ATM BLC model for one more year until the native ethernet FTTN/GPON products come available.

Sprint LTD will be the biggest customer that either Calix or Entrisphere ever win with their current product platforms. Maybe Calix can survive as a stealth startup until the native ethernet C8 comes out in 2008. I think the software is being done in India for that.
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:24:31 AM
re: Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device Regarding backplane capacity, Entrisphere submits the following:

"Entrisphere is shipping the BLM 1500 with a 60 Gbps non-blocking switch fabric and a 300 Gbps backplane. We focus on the switch fabric speed since it is a direct statement of the capacity that is shipping and usable by customers in networks today, whereas backplane speeds are interesting in that they state potential capacity, but do not indicate actual capability today."
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:24:30 AM
re: Entrisphere Launches Flagship Device
So, a question you may wish to ask them Phil is:

When I have a box that is deployed with a 60Gb/s infrastructure what blades have to change to go to a 300 Gb/s infrastructure?

a - Switch Fabrics
b - Commons
c - Line Cards
d - a & b
e - a & c
f - b & c
g - a & b & c

The answer to that question will tell you how realistic a bandwidth upgrade is. If it is g, then it is not likely, If it is a, then its not a bad deal.

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