Ethernet equipment

Ethernet Stalks the MSPP

The rise of Ethernet has at least one major carrier shying away from multiservice provisioning platforms (MSPPs), according to the latest Light Reading Insider report.

Written by the analysts of Heavy Reading -- Light Reading's paid research arm -- the report summarizes four of telecom's most important trends: carrier-class Ethernet; IPTV; IMS and fixed/mobile convergence; and multiservice edge technologies.

Ethernet services have become the tool of choice for Tier 2 service providers, because it's an area where they can leapfrog the big guys (see Tier 2 Carriers Eat Up Ethernet). But worldwide, the incumbent carriers have begun taking notice. "Public and private statements by data officials within [major] incumbents indicate they are willing to become fully engaged in the battles taking place in the Ethernet market," writes Heavy Reading analyst Stan Hubbard.

Hubbard noted the trend in a recent Heavy Reading report, "Ethernet Services Carrier Scorecard: North America". In fact, the carrier Ethernet trend is strong enough that Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) reportedly is considering a bid for Atrica. (See Ethernet Goes Wide at Supercomm, It's Ethernet or Bust, and Juniper Shopping for Atrica?).

What's this got to do with MSPPs? In the Insider report, Hubbard briefly notes that "one sizeable carrier" is thinking of "shifting away" from and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) MSPPs in favor of Ethernet equipment from Atrica Inc. or a similar company.

The reason is because of Ethernet's growth. As carriers' multipoint Ethernet services expand, it's only practical to start buying Ethernet equipment, possibly using multiservice edge routers to help aggregate the non-Ethernet traffic.

"The idea here is that a lot of newer services can ride over the Ethernet switches, particularly as they take on more carrier-grade features. And as operators grow more comfortable with that, they can then transition existing services more in the direction of Ethernet," Hubbard said in an interview.

Hubbard stressed the trend is at a "very early stage." It doesn't mean MSPPs are in any immediate danger. And it's worth noting that Cisco, being king of the carrier Ethernet realm, could end up a winner anyway.

Because Tier 1 carriers can't just turn their backs on older services, the "M" in MSPP is likely to stick around for a while, says Michael Howard, president of research firm Infonetics Research Inc. But Howard agrees that Ethernet could dominate the picture in the long run.

"There's still a need to aggregate T1s and T3s, E1s and E3s," he says. "But over time, what's the copper going to be used for? More and more, it's going to be an Ethernet connection."

One possibility could be the creation of an "Ether-MSPP," a multiservice box that's really intended for Ethernet. "You could take some of these [carrier Ethernet] boxes or has designed and put a bank of T1 connections on them," Howard says. Or, carriers could aggregate their TDM traffic at some point in the network -- a broadband loop concentrator, maybe -- and put that onto Ethernet for further transport.

The Insider report includes brief descriptions of every major carrier's Ethernet strategy and delves into the implications for network architecture. Oh yeah -- it also talks about that IPTV, IMS, and multiservice edge stuff, too.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

The report, Telecom's Technology Hot Spots, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Light Reading Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900. For more information, or to subscribe, please visit: www.lightreading.com/insider.

For a more exhaustive look at the Ethernet revolution, check out Light Reading's Ethernet Expo 2005, to be held at the Grand Hyatt in New York City on October 12, 13 & 14, 2005.

Hosted by Light Reading founders Peter Heywood and Stephen Saunders, Ethernet Expo 2005 will be the first conference and exhibition dedicated to examining the evolution of Ethernet into a ubiquitous enabler of next-gen services and applications on telecom and enterprise networks.

For more information, click here.

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