Qwest Gets Cozier With ONI
Neither ONI Systems nor Qwest is willing to provide any information beyond these meager crumbs -- for example, there are no sales numbers. But the news hidden in the detail-free release could be very big indeed.
While ONI Systems may be hindered from saying so outright, it looks to have won a starring role in one of Qwest's hottest new service networks -- the Qwest Local Broadband fiber rings that are under construction in 25 U.S. cities.
The Qwest Local Broadband rings are designed for business customers with high-bandwidth applications and a need for secure VPNs (virtual private networks) within key U.S. metropolitan areas. The rings are built off of the Qwest backbone around key POPs (points of presence). The POPs in turn are tied to the carrier's Web hosting facilities. Qwest says customers can directly access the rings at rates to OC192 (10 Gbit/s).
As of February 2001, Qwest had completed the buildout of its Local Broadband service rings in 12 cities: Baltimore, Md.; Chicago; Dallas/Ft. Worth; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; New York; Sacramento, Calif.; San Francisco; San Jose, Calif.; St. Louis; and Washington, D.C. The carrier has announced plans to have 13 more cities online by "mid-2001," including Albany, N.Y.; Austin, Texas;, Orange County and San Diego, Calif.; Boston; Cleveland; Detroit; Indianapolis; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; San Antonio; and White Plains, N.Y.
Exactly where ONI Systems fits into all this isn't clear. The vendor won't -- or contractually can't -- say which city rings it's supporting. But one thing is certain: While ONI Systems originally was signed by Qwest in August 2000 to light just one (unspecified) metro area, it's now been installed in "several more."
One reason ONI got the contract with Qwest was its support of both OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) and OC192 rates in one box. Yesterday's ONI press release quotes Augie Cruciotti, executive VP of national local networks at Qwest, as saying: "We needed a solution that would enable us to deploy OC192 services today and ONI was able to meet that challenge."
Analysts say direct OC192 access to metro rings isn't prevalent right now, but shows enormous potential. "The higher speed will give service providers the means to scale up their networks by adding wavelengths and likewise reduce the cost of creating gigabit services," says Christopher A. Nicoll, director at Current Analysis.
It's not clear whether ONI Systems actually beat out another key metro DWDM provider, Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), in populating the rings. But both vendors have an agreement to supply metro DWDM to Qwest. For its part, Ciena says it's unaware of any displacement on the rings. "Qwest has a multivendor network. They use us in some places and ONI in others," says Ciena spokesperson Bill Rose.
Analysts say ONI has a key advantage, however. "When it comes to wavelength scaleability, ONI packs more wavelengths into a footprint," says Chris Nicoll. ONI Systems' ONLINE platform can handle up to 66 wavelengths, compared to 48 for Ciena's Multiwave Metro platform.
ONI Systems seems to be making good headway in other plum DWDM metro accounts. It's apparently been shortlisted at Genuity Inc. (Nasdaq: GENU) (see Metro-Optix Lures WorldCom, Genuity). It has been in the running at WorldCom Inc. (Nasdaq: WCOM). And last year, it won a spot on the network of Sphera Optical Networks Inc. (see Sphera Building With ONI Gear).
On the other hand, a trial is not a contract. And whether ONI Systems actually winds up in Genuity or Worldcom remains to be seen. Competition is also heating up in the metro DWDM space, as evidenced by the recent entry of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) (see Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro), also a Qwest supplier. And Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), another Qwest supplier, is seeking a major claim to the high-speed metro space. Given this increasingly competitive scenario, it's perhaps not surprising ONI's carefully sheltering its news under a bushel.
- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com