Alcatel Shrinks Access Router

Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) is taking its IPTV franchise into smaller, lower-cost POPs, part of a wave of access-related announcements sweeping this week's TelecomNext conference.

Alcatel today announced the 7710 Service Router, the latest spinoff of the 7750 router acquired with TiMetra Networks in 2003. Talk of a newer, smaller Alcatel box has circulated since last year, as Light Reading reported in December. (See Sources: Alcatel Plans IP Growth and Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal.)

In fact, it's possible Alcatel is working on yet another small box, as previous rumors spoke of a new box called the 7420 ESS, theoretically a smaller version of Alcatel's 7450, which in turn is the Ethernet derivative of the 7750.

What's with all the shrinkage? Like most vendors, Alcatel wants to extend its franchise to places where carriers don't have the cash for a larger box such as the 7750: markets such as small POPs and some mobile backhaul sites. "Some of the numbers we knocked out in our larger boxes were just too big and too expensive and took up too much power for those applications," says Kevin Macaluso, vice president and general manager of Alcatel's router division.

Alcatel already has a small box called the 7750 SR-1, but it lacks certain features carriers want; the 7710 comes with full redundancy and the software capabilities of the 7750, Alcatel officials say. So while the 7710 could be compared to Cisco's smaller 7600 boxes or the Juniper M10i, Alcatel is hoping features like non-stop routing help it stand out as a carrier-grade box, as opposed to coming "from the Internet access standpoint," Macaluso says.

The 7710 "is certainly a nice addition to the portfolio, and it'll be interesting to see how much residential demand, versus business demand, it gets pulled into," says Rick Thompson, senior analyst with Heavy Reading. "It sounds like they'll see more traction from small business services than residential services."

Access looks to be all the rage at TelecomNext. Redback Networks Inc. recently announced its own small box, a shrunken version of the flagship SmartEdge product line. (See Redback Shrinks SmartEdge.) Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) today announced its Total Access 5000 access device. (See Adtran Touts Total Access.) And ANDA Networks Inc. is at the show touting the latest versions of its EtherReach 2000 access boxes. (See ANDA Extends EtherReach.)

ANDA also announced Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) as a reseller, stretching Lucent's Ethernet reach by offering equipment that can tap copper lines as well as fiber. (See Lucent to Support ANDA.)

Lucent already has a reseller deal with carrier Ethernet vendor Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK) , but ANDA claims it can add to Lucent's reach. Riverstone's access boxes, the 15100 and 15200, "don't support some of the newer protocols" like circuit bonding over copper, says Greg Gum, ANDA's vice president of marketing.

(At this writing, it was still unclear whether Riverstone had been acquired by Lucent as planned. See Ericsson Wants Riverstone.) Alcatel's 7710 box sports 12 quarter-sized slots, with interfaces comprising multiple ports of T1/E1 or 10/100-Mbit/s Ethernet; a one-port Gigabit Ethernet interface is also available. Customers can also plug some of the 7750 cards into the 7710.

General availability for Alcatel's 7710 is slated for the second quarter of 2006.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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