Marconi, Italtel Score at C&W
The carrier, currently undergoing a massive upheaval, aims to challenge BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) in the U.K. broadband market by investing up to $150 million in new broadband access systems (see C&W Has $150M Broadband Plan and C&W Chops & Changes).
The rollout will be undertaken by C&W's recently acquired broadband business, Bulldog Communications Ltd., which is taking advantage of the U.K.'s lower local loop unbundling (LLU) costs (see C&W Buys British Bulldog, Ofcom Proposes New LLU Rates).
Bulldog's head of product and service development, Tim Greening-Jackson, says the broadband player has "an ambitious rollout plan" to deploy new access gear in more than 350 of BT's local exchanges by the end of 2005, adding to the 38 it has already unbundled.
And he confirms that Marconi's multiservice access hub and Italtel's softswitches are at the heart of the rollout, though he couldn't provide any further detail.
He does say, though, that Bulldog is sticking initially with a service combination of high-speed broadband (up to 4 Mbit/s) plus analog voice, rather than VOIP.
"Italtel's platform is a next-generation switching system that can cope with POTS voice as well as a number of VOIP protocols, including SIP," says Greening-Jackson. "In the longer term, we'll introduce packet voice services, but not until we're sure we can deliver adequate quality of service."
Italtel confirmed its part of the deal with C&W earlier today, as it announced an extension of its partnership with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (See Cisco, Italtel Get Closer.)
An Italtel spokeswoman says the company will act as an integrator as well as supplying its Multi-Service Solution (iMSS), which includes its softswitch, but wouldn't provide a value for the contract. The deal marks its entry into the U.K. market, she adds, and brings to 24 the number of European carriers using iMSS (see Telecom Italia Takes the IP-ian Way).
Italtel is ranked as Europe's leading softswitch vendor by Infonetics Research Inc. and has been the subject of takeover rumors in the past few months (see Italtel Announces Triple-Play Contract and Scuttlebutt: Italtel's Up for Grabs).
Marconi wouldn't comment at all on any relationships with C&W or Bulldog.
Its access hub is already in use in the U.K., at BT, and has also been deployed by a number of carriers on Italtel's home turf -- Telecom Italia SpA (NYSE: TI), Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA, and FastWeb SpA (see Wind Upgrades With Marconi Hub, Marconi Softswitches With BT, FastWeb Picks Marconi for ADSL, and Marconi Gets Bigger in Broadband ).
While positive for Marconi, C&W's decision looks negative for Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), which had been Bulldog's primary access equipment supplier to date.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading