Optical/IP Networks

HR Presents Ethernet Provider Awards

NEW YORK -- This week's Light Reading Ethernet Expo was more than just a chance to schmooze with carriers and drink for free, it also hosted the inaugural Ethernet Service Provider of the Year awards, presented by Heavy Reading.

This first round of the awards covered just North America, but future versions will include carriers worldwide, Heavy Reading analyst Stan Hubbard told the audience at the awards ceremony today.

The awards were based on dozens of operator interviews, finding out what type of infrastructure they're deploying and what challenges they face. Outside submissions were encouraged as well.

"It's a pretty comprehensive look at what's going on in the market, and I think we've talked to all the significant operators and many of the niche players," Hubbard said.

For a look at the nominees and detailed award criteria, see Ethernet Service Provider of the Year Finalists. And now, the winners:

Market Leadership:
Verizon Business
This award went to the service provider best demonstrating carrier Ethernet services leadership.

In addition to the products offered and types of applications served, revenues were a big factor here. "We've heard at the conference a lot of carriers are growing at double-digit rates," Hubbard said. The footprint of a carrier's services was also taken into consideration, given that the ability to just get to customers remains a handicap for carrier Ethernet. (See Ethernet Expo: Shop 'Til You Drop.)

Verizon Enterprise Solutions has "just a phenomenal amount of energy relating to Ethernet," Hubbard said. "They've done a really good job articulating the value of Ethernet and having a clear message around their portfolio."

Verizon Business has also been a big supporter of MEF standards, and it's got a broad portfolio that's soon to include nationwide virtual private LAN services (VPLS). (See AT&T, Verizon Expand on Ethernet.)

Hubbard said he liked Verizon's Converged Packet Access and the marketing job Verizon has done since the acquisition of MCI. (See Verizon Closes MCI Buy and Verizon Unveils Business Unit.) Ethernet revenue growth of 70 percent over last year helped Verizon's case, too.

Product Portfolio:
AT&T Inc.

This award examines the product realm, looking at available services in terms of their bandwidth options, performance, and the breadth of markets served. Credit was also given to the providers that demonstrated the ability to smoothly migrate customers onto Ethernet from legacy services.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has what Hubbard called "the broadest Ethernet portfolio in the country," with 12 major services on both the private-line and Ethernet LAN fronts. Examples include the flagship Opt-E-Man service "that's going strong right now" and the 10-Gbit/s DecaMAN offering, he said.

The company's footprint is impressive, too, covering 49 states in the U.S.

Yipes Enterprise Services
A straightforward category, "Innovation" rewards the carrier showing bright new ideas not only in technology, but in sales and marketing as well. The idea is to demonstrate a clear commitment to getting customers shifted onto Ethernet, away from legacy services.

All of the nominees showed strong efforts in making Ethernet more attractive: new technologies, more stringent SLA options, and a choice of access methods (copper and fiber, for instance) -- again touching on the availability issue.

Yipes, revitalized from its bankruptcy, has spread services far and wide through partnerships with carriers including Colt Technology Services Group Ltd and Exponential-e Ltd. (See Yipes, Exponential-e Hook Up.)

"They're lining up these players across the board, and they're asking for these other players to support the SLAs they're offering to customers," Hubbard said.

Yipes claims 800 customers and a 40 percent growth in Ethernet revenues compared with last year. And the company has shown a penchant for targeting the most promising industry verticals, as shown by the recently launched FinancialConnect service. (See Yipes Intros Extranets.)

"This is the toughest category, really, to identify a winner," Hubbard told the audience. Optimum Lightpath , a division of Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), was a close runner-up, he told Light Reading, as it's taken some of the "boldest steps of any players" in shifting customers to Ethernet.

"The way they're able to do that is because they're using the high performance carrier Ethernet switching and routing platforms," Hubbard said during the awards ceremony. While he didn't give specifics, it's been publicly announced that Optimum is buying at least some of its Ethernet gear from Atrica Inc. (See Atrica Finds Its Lightpath.) Hubbard says he's also been impressed with the way Optimum has marketed its Ethernet services, a campaign that's included billboards and TV commercials.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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