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Optical/IP

Lightscape Targets Wireless With Optical Box

Optical and wireless technologies appear to be converging in some places around the world – including the CeBIT tradeshow in Hanover, Germany – to judge from the announcement made today by Lightscape Networks Ltd.

Lightscape says it will demo two new developments at CeBIT, which opens its doors tomorrow (March 13). One of them is a design software package called LightPlanT; the other is a smaller version of its existing range of boxes targeting metro optical networks, called the XDM-400 (see Lightscape Unveils Two Products).

What makes this announcement interesting is that Lightscape is making a big thing out of targeting wireless operators with this box, even though it’s got an optical pedigree. In fact, the XDM product family is a little unusual in that it’s not just a line of metro DWDM boxes or Sonet/SDH add/drop multiplexers. It’s both, and it also incorporates a couple of other goodies – a digital crossconnect and a Gigabit Ethernet switch.

No other vendor combines so many functions in the same box, according to Ido Gur, vice president of marketing for Lightscape, who says the XDM-400 will ship in the third quarter of this year. The bottom line is that it’s an attractive solution for wireless operators wanting to use optical technologies for transporting traffic from base stations to Internet backbones, says Gur. A single box handles everything and enables operators to adapt their networks as traffic changes – adding extra wavelengths to increase capacity and adding further modules to handle circuit- or packet-based traffic, as required. The use of DWDM also facilitates sharing of fiber infrastructure with other operators, to reduce costs even further. Traffic runs on separate wavelengths over the same fiber.

This concept of sharing network capacity isn’t that common at the moment. But it’s on the increase. AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless recently announced plans to share the cost of building out their GSM/GPRS networks in the U.S.

Traditionally, this is the kind of networking that would have been left to companies like Qwest Communications International Inc. and Level 3 Communications Inc.. However, increasingly, cellular operators are doing it for themselves, to ensure extra capacity when they build out next-generation networks. “The thinking is that there is going to be so much more wireless data – and even voice traffic – that extra capacity will be needed,” says Tony Carmona, an analyst at Information Gatekeepers Inc.

Lightscape, an ECI Telecom Ltd. subsidiary, has certainly won its fair share of contracts in this sector. It numbers China Unicom Ltd., Israeli operator Bezeq, Sweden's Telia AB, Vodafone Group PLC's German subsidiary D2 Vodafone, Agere Systems, and Cable & Wireless PLC among its customers.

Lightscape is far from alone in targeting wireless operators with optical kit. Rivals include: Juniper Networks Inc., which has partnered with Ericsson AB; Nokia Corp, following its acquisition of Amber last year; Nortel Networks Corp.; and Lucent Technologies Inc.. Sweden’s Lumentis AB, which is exhibiting at CeBIT, recently told Unstrung’s sister publication, Light Reading, that it also sees wireless operators as big potential customers for its metro DWDM equipment (see Lumentis Cuts Metro Costs ).

Right now, Lightscape appears to have an edge in combining so many functions into a single box. And Gur says development is still going on, as Lightscape looks to add more datacom capabilities to the XDM platform. For instance, he says, Lightscape’s designers are working on enabling grooming of both voice and data traffic onto the same Sonet (Synchronous Optical NETwork) and SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) stream. This could be a bandwidth saver for wireless operators looking to roll out third-generation voice and data services. Gur could not say, however, when this feature would be incorporated in the platform.

At CeBIT, Lightscape is in Hall 27, Booth D15.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
http://www.unstrung.com
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