Ethernet equipment

BT Issues 21CN Ethernet RFP

BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has issued a major Ethernet equipment Invitation to Tender (ITT) for its £10 billion (US$18.7 billion) 21CN next-generation network project, Light Reading has learned.

Having finally signed deals with its eight "preferred suppliers" for IP, transmission, and access equipment, the British carrier has now issued its ITT -- more commonly known as an RFP (request for proposal) -- for the systems that will power its future Ethernet services. (See Vendors Sign BT 21CN Contracts and BT Closes 21CN Deals, Touts IPTV.)

News that the ITT is already in circulation among vendors comes just days after Matt Beal, the 21CN program director, told the audience at Light Reading's Ethernet Expo: Europe 2006 that "Ethernet is across the entirety of 21CN, with reach through more than 5,500 exchanges, and Ethernet over optical. Ethernet is seen as the racehorse in the network now that it has reach and capacity capabilities not previously thought possible." (See 21CN: It's an Ethernet Thing.)

A year ago, BT's CTO Matt Bross also eulogized about Ethernet and the role it will play in BT's future. (See BT's Bross: Ethernet Will Deliver.)

BT says this new ITT process is completely separate from the initial network equipment tender and procurement process and covers the full range of carrier Ethernet capabilities, thereby opening the 21CN door for vendors that missed out on the initial contract awards.

And it's likely that the Ethernet sector's vendors will be falling over themselves to get involved. While BT is playing hardball with its suppliers in terms of pricing, making it a tough project to be involved in financially, the 21CN program is probably the most high-profile and radical telecom network overhaul process in the world, and provides the systems suppliers involved with an unparalleled shop window for their NGN technology. (See BT's Learning From Google.)

Details about the ITT's detail -- the potential value of the available deals and the exact technical requirements -- are scarce, as the vendors stick to BT's non-disclosure requirements for fear of being ousted from the process. BT says it is spending about £3.4 billion ($6.3 billion) of its £10 billion ($18.7 billion) 21CN budget on the initial contracts with its eight "preferred suppliers," but it is not giving any guidance about the planned capital expenditure to be used on Ethernet gear.

It's also not known when BT will select and name its Ethernet suppliers, or when shipping and deployment will begin. The carrier plans to switch off its current multiple networks and run all its services on the 21CN in 2010, but there are already signs that such an aggressive timetable might be subject to change. (See BT Says 21CN Deadline Hasn't Moved.)

Some vendors, under condition of anonymity, confirmed that the ITT document is wide-ranging in terms of its requirements, and shows that BT is preparing to deploy a number of different technologies to enable Ethernet services for corporate and, ultimately, residential customers.

Specialist Ethernet vendors, though, may already be resigned to playing a secondary role, at best, in the equipment supply process. One firm told Light Reading that BT's procurement policies mean the major infrastructure vendors will almost certainly be handed the contracts, and that any specialist Ethernet firms will then have to collaborate with those major suppliers.

That's the way BT approached its initial equipment deals: Eight major vendor partners were chosen and are delivering products and services from multiple partners as well as their own wares. (See Fujitsu Shares Its 21CN Success, BT's 21CN: Metro Partners Under Wraps , Ericsson to Bring Partners to 21CN Party, Alcatel Names Its 21CN Partners, and Siemens Unveils 21CN Partners.)

The list of specialist Ethernet vendors that could respond to BT's ITT document is long, but if they need to team up with a major vendor to get a foot in the door, then Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Nortel Networks Ltd. would be the most likely partners. Alcatel is well placed, having recently provided BT with technology for its existing Virtual Private LAN service. (See BT Picks Alcatel VPLS .)

News of the Ethernet RFP comes days after SIP application server firm Ubiquity Software Corp. (London: UBQ) announced its involvement in the "common capabilities," or service creation and development platform, stage of the 21CN process. (See Ubiquity Leads New Round of 21CN Deals.)

This means BT Wholesale, the division of BT that is managing the 21CN program, is juggling a number of different 21CN processes that it needs to run and develop in tandem:

  • The deployment and testing of the access, IP, and transmission systems as specified in the initial round of equipment contracts. The first 21CN metro region, in South Wales, is set to switch to a VOIP-only platform in March 2007. (See BT Takes 21CN 'Baby Step' and BT Says 21CN Deadline Hasn't Moved.)

  • The procurement and ordering of Ethernet-specific systems that will need to be integrated with the first round of new hardware.

  • The "common capabilities" process -- BT is set to announce deals with multiple specialist service creation platform specialists that will provide the building blocks for new services and applications.

  • The integration of, and migration to, a number of new multiservice OSS platforms that will ultimately replace the multiple legacy operational and business support systems that underpin each of BT's current services, of which there are hundreds. (See BT Uses JDSU for 21CN, Tektronix Joins 21CN, BT Awards Monster OSS Deal, BT Pins Down OSS Deals, and BT Uses MetaSolv OSS.)

  • The rollout and integration of video-over-broadband systems. BT is to launch video-on-demand (VOD) services later this year over its current DSL access network, but the video systems supporting those services will need to be deployed and planned with a view to 21CN integration. (See Microsoft Wins at BT.)
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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tmc1 12/5/2012 | 3:54:39 AM
re: BT Issues 21CN Ethernet RFP desi,

Don't shoot the messenger. I don't agree with anything BT is doing here. They wan't ultra, ultra cheap ethernet transport and I believe that Nortel and Huawei are giving them the worst kind of vendor sweet-talk (what others call fabrications, exaggerations, prevarications, etc.)

I agree with everything you said about Nortel and PBT. I would not be surprised to see another vendor sneak in there but they will use these two to beat them up on price as much as possible.

When I said they want to do business with Huawei, I meant in the ethernet segment, not DSL. This would be the first real customer outside of Asia for Huawei for such a product.

Now get back to work, desi!
desiEngineer 12/5/2012 | 3:54:39 AM
re: BT Issues 21CN Ethernet RFP tmc1: "First of all look at who BT really wants to do business with. They want a low-cost ethernet solution. they have been pushing the new PBT 802 standards with Nortel. They have been testing Nortel gear in their labs. They love the price of Huawei gear and Huawei is desparate for their business. hmmm..."

I believe they already do business with Huawei. So Huawei have at least gotten over that hump. Nortel - they don't exactly instill confidence, and the only reason they are even mentioned is that they have Bross's ear.

I can't imagine conceiving of the 21CN network, making ethernet the cornerstone, and then coming up with an ethernet RFP about two years later. Something fishy in the state of Denmark!

And why PBT when they have a converged network model - why not build on MPLS? Why on earth would they go back to an NMS-based manually-configured VLAN-based network, even if it is somewhat GMPLS friendly.

Anyway, by the time they put a control plane to get around the manual provisioning of hundreds of what sound very much like SONET/SDH cross-connects done ethernet-style, it's not going to be an el-cheapo box. Put some QoS on the sucker, engineer some traffic engineering capabilities, stick in some fast failover methods, and you have a 21CN-worthy ethernet box. Oh yeah, and don't forget the OAM. Hmmm. Sounds like we could have one of these in time for 22CN.

Who, besides Nortel, would consider this a strategically good move?

As far as Nortel is concerned, is this Neptune rising from, er, ..., wherever Neptunes rise from, like the Sisyphian boulder, only to roll down into the ocean, ensconced in Morphean slumber. Ugh, I just mixed way too many graeco-roman mythological metaphors. I need a coffee.

There, I just asked more questions in one posting than Peter Heywood could.

tmc1 12/5/2012 | 3:54:40 AM
re: BT Issues 21CN Ethernet RFP IronCCIE,

you know the answer to your question so why bother me?

First of all look at who BT really wants to do business with. They want a low-cost ethernet solution. they have been pushing the new PBT 802 standards with Nortel. They have been testing Nortel gear in their labs. They love the price of Huawei gear and Huawei is desparate for their business. hmmm...

Second, carriers want to buy products from companies that understand the carrier requirements, that have committed to carrier-class quality and understand the development, support and sales requirements. Reseller relationships will not provide that. Enterprise is a different animal.

Extreme and Foundry have made repeated attempts to sell to the Tier 1 providers with some limited success mostly in Asia. Riverstone made the biggest committment and has had some success but could not really make it stick in the end due to quality, management, financial and technical problems. The many Tier 1 labs I have been in like the price but will not even consider these products outside their internal "IT" networks.
ironccie 12/5/2012 | 3:54:41 AM
re: BT Issues 21CN Ethernet RFP TMC1,

Knowledge has much better uses than self pity and superiority. Why can't they?

jayavenu 12/5/2012 | 3:54:43 AM
re: BT Issues 21CN Ethernet RFP The Vendor or Vendors with partners winning the ITT should surely be the one with the best SOA and capability to manage end to end Quality of Customer Experience.
tmc1 12/5/2012 | 3:54:43 AM
re: BT Issues 21CN Ethernet RFP Could Foundry, or EXTR sneak in to 21C?, well we will just wait and see. Teee Heee

No. Most likely they cannot. Teee Heee.
Honestly 12/5/2012 | 3:54:44 AM
re: BT Issues 21CN Ethernet RFP Having this hole in the product portfolio is painful for Scott K. He cannot deny It no matter how long he talks on conference calls.

Could Foundry, or EXTR sneak in to 21C?, well we will just wait and see. Teee Heee
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