Alcatel Joins CWDM Club
All three promise to add a bit more oomph to equipment that's already scored some major contract wins, most recently with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) (see Alcatel Wins Sprint Metro DWDM Deal).
The most significant of these products is probably the "Alcatel 1692 Metro Span Edge." It marks Alcatel's entry into the coarse wavelength-division multiplexing (CWDM) market, which in itself is significant. Alcatel is the first incumbent equipment vendor to develop a standalone CWDM product from the ground up -- and that means the technology will gain some credibility in the eyes of carriers.
Other incumbent vendors, including Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), offer CWDM blades for metro DWDM platforms.
But startups in this field -- such as Sweden's Transmode Systems AB and Germany's LastMile AG and Microsens GmbH & Co. KG -- argue that the cost-cutting potential of CWDM can only be realized by designing transponder-based platforms from scratch.
An alternative way of leveraging CWDM's cost-cutting potential is to plug special "GBIC" (gigabit interface converter) modules directly into equipment such as routers and switches -- an approach advocated by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). The catch here is that a lot of telecom equipment doesn't have the right interface for GBICs, and wavelengths have to be dedicated to a single protocol (for Light Reading's report on the topic, see CWDM: Low-Cost Capacity).
Alcatel's CWDM platform supports up to eight wavelengths, while most startups have 16-channel capability. Right now, this isn't a big deal, because most customers don't want more than eight channels, acknowledges Lars Bergström, Transmode's marketing manager.
The big selling point for the Alcatel 1692 is likely to be its support for Alcatel's "4xAny" TDM concentrator, which enables each wavelength to carry up to four channels of different protocols. This feature is already a key part of Alcatel's DWDM products and is one of the main reasons for their success, according to Jean-Luc Beylat, vice president of network strategy for Alcatel's optical networking business unit.
The other two products launched by Alcatel today are the 1642 Edge Multiplexer, targeting customer premises applications, and the 1662 SMC. The latter incorporates fiber ring technology from Native Networks Ltd. (see Alcatel Takes a Fling at a Ring). Beylat says both products benefit from advances in technology that have halved their size, adding that prices have also been reduced in comparison to older products, although he declined to cite actual figures.
Light Reading's Founding Editor, Peter Heywood, will be hosting a panel discussion at CeBIT: CeBIT Debate: ATM Versus Ethernet on Thursday, March 13. On Saturday, March 15, the European Editor of Unstrung, Light Reading's sister site, will be hosting a discussion as well: (see CeBIT Debate: Location-Based Services ).
— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading