Zhone's Raptor Grabs at DSLAM Market
Zhone, which has bought eight companies to date, has previously been able to offer DSL provisioning with other products. Its flagship product, the Broadband Access Node, combines the functions of a DSLAM, a switch/router, and a broadband subscriber management system in a single box. But with its own central office DSLAM, Zhone hopes to help carriers deliver more lines of DSL than anyone else, at a very low price. The technology for the Raptor products was developed by Zhone in-house, the company says. Of course, it's worth noting that Zhone became a student of DSLAMs following its 2001 acquisition of two Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) product lines. To wit, Zhone bought Nortel's digital loop carrier (DLC) product, AccessNode, which uses high-speed lines to extend the reach of central office switches to remote neighborhoods. It also snapped up Nortel's Universal Edge 9000, a product that sits between the carrier's central office and the customer location and can operate either as a DSLAM or as a DLC.
The three boxes in the new Raptor series -- the 100, 300, and 700 -- put the company in competition with the DSL provisioning leaders, including Advanced Fibre Communications Inc. (AFC) (Nasdaq: AFCI), Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN), Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU).
“This definitely addresses a gap in [Zhone's] portfolio,” says Current Analysis analyst Ron Westfall. “Overall, this is a praiseworthy, significant announcement.”
Zhone is making several claims about the new product line, the first being that none of its competitors can touch it on price. The company says carriers can scale from the Raptor 100, a one-rack-unit box with its 24 fixed ports, to the Raptor 700, a seven-RU box with its 640 ports, with a list price-per-port as low as $148. That compares, Zhone claims, to a Lucent Stringer FS/FS+ price per port of $440.
Lucent wouldn't engage Zhone in a price-per-port comparison, but did hint that being a telecom heavyweight, as opposed to a new DSLAM market entrant, has its advantages. "You're comparing list prices to real prices," says a Lucent spokesman.
“[Zhone's] price points are certainly aggressive,” Westfall says, pointing out that, while the company’s pricing is on a par with pricing in Asia/Pacific, it certainly undercuts anything in the European or U.S. markets. “This should allow them to position against a whole host of DSLAM products out there.”
With some software upgrades, Zhone says its new gear can handle voice and data, turning it into more of a next-generation digital loop carrier. This is significant, since most products on the market require an additional card to be added manually when upgrading to voice, according to Zhone vice president of marketing David Markowitz.
One thing Zhone hasn't made much noise about is its new gear's video transmission capabilities. “Clearly there are some other rivals out there that are further along on the video aspects,” Westfall says, pointing out that both Alcatel and Lucent already have paying carrier customers for their video products.
Markowitz claims that Raptor boxes are optimized for video and says the company will be doing a lot of talking about video going forward.
Zhone isn’t discussing which or how many customers it has landed so far for its new Raptor series, but boasts that, across all its product lines, it sells to 250 service providers serving 8 million subscribers worldwide.
— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Light Reading