Nortel And Lucent Compete For Air Time

Forget pro-wrestling. Fight fans looking for blood should tune into the scrap now brewing between Lucent Technologies http://www.lucent.com and Nortel Networks http://www.nortel.com for domination of the fiberless optical networking market.

Lucent and Nortel have both struck deals with fiberless optical startups -- ones that sell products that use lasers to transmit high-speed voice and data through the air rather than over fiber cable. But the companies they have sided with have different takes on the technology, which makes this an interesting face-off.

Nortel today announced a reseller agreement with AirFiber Inc. http://www.airfiber.com, which itself announced its first products -- called OptiMesh -- this morning. Nortel provided AirFiber with its second round of financing, and has been working with the vendor on product development since last August, it says.

Just two weeks back, Lucent announced its own partnership with TeraBeam Networks http://www.terabeam.com. Under the agreement, Lucent will take a 30% stake in TeraBeam and will set up a jointly owned company to distribute the products (see The Truth About TeraBeam ).

Fiberless optical technology promises to bridge a yawning gap in the last mile of carrier networks. As demand for broadband services grows, providers can install wireless solutions instead of spending millions digging up city streets to lay fiber. Wireless networks built using gear from AirFiber and TeraBeam can be deployed in days rather than months, satisfying carriers' need to keep costs down and customers' need to get services fast. Little wonder, then, that Lucent and Nortel both want into the game.

That said, there are some big differences between the approaches taken by their proteges.

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