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Optical/IP

AlcaLu Pushes Backhaul Features

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is intensifying its push to get routers into wireless backhaul, adding some reliability features in a bid to help operators converge their networks.

The idea is to offer the 7750 Service Router, and in some cases, the 7710 Service Router, as vehicles for today's T1/E1-based backhaul and the eventual migration to Ethernet backhaul. (See AlcaLu Targets Backhaul.)

Part of the pitch involves using one router in the place of many. At the cell site, mobile operators tend to use a separate router/switch combination for voice calls, 2G data, and 3G data. Alcatel-Lucent is saying its gear can replace all those and, in the 7750's case, scale to higher density.

Alcatel-Lucent also says it can help operators use T1/E1 lines more efficiently, which is going to matter as data services start raking in the bits.

"New data services have much lower revenue per bit than traditional mobile voice, so operators need a cost structure that scales inline with this kind of revenue profile," says Unstrung Insider analyst Gabriel Brown. "Just adding T1/E1s is not scalable, because costs go up linearly, and revenue doesn't keep pace."

All this means the 7750, best known as an IP/MPLS convergence box, needs to get its TDM mojo up. Alcatel-Lucent's announcement today focuses on features geared toward TDM-based wireless backhaul.

For example, Alcatel-Lucent is introducing four classes of service for multilink PPP, the protocol that's typically used for backhauling traffic onto T1s. This kind of traffic prioritization wasn't possible before, Alcatel-Lucent claims. "If I try to merge voice, video, and data traffic over the same T1 link, the traffic is going to be serviced in the order it comes in," says Steve Shalita, a senior director of product marketing for Alcatel-Lucent.

Alcatel-Lucent says it is also upping the ante on resiliency for TDM's automatic protection switching. It's possible today for a backup link to be on another line card; Alcatel-Lucent says it can designate a backup that's in another chassis, even if it's not in the same central office.

The hope is that this assembly of features can help the 7750 become more like a purpose-built backhaul box. That kind of profile could be an advantage against -- well, Alcatel-Lucent doesn't want to name them specifically, but Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) are two competitors in this area.

"Some of the vendors that you think of intuitively as market leaders don't have that range of interfaces," Shalita says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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