Optical/IP Networks

Vendors Detail Gear in BT VOIP Trials

Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) have taken a step further into BT Group plc's (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA) next-generation network and announced the technologies involved in the carrier's VOIP field trial that starts later this year (see BT Trials IP Network).

The trial is part of BT's plan to migrate to a single, IP-based infrastructure called the 21st Century Network (21CN), and, according to some of the vendors, the systems involved are already being deployed in the carrier's central offices while still being put through their paces in the test labs (see BT Moves Ahead With Mega Project).

Only four hardware vendors have been identified so far. They are:

  • Alcatel, which is providing its 7750 multiservice edge router and its 5620 Service Aware Manager (see BT Picks Alcatel Router ). The 7750 was developed by TiMetra, which was acquired in May 2003 (see Alcatel Goes Mid-Range and Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal).

    Alcatel is, not surprisingly, "pleased and proud that BT has put its faith in our edge aggregation strategy. We're shipping and deploying the product in BT's network in advance of the live trial, and the lab assessment is ongoing at the same time," says Phil Tilley, VP of marketing for Alcatel's fixed network division. He adds that the 7750 is currently deployed in 26 networks, with TeliaSonera AB (Nasdaq: TLSN) among the recent takers (see China Telecom Selects Alcatel 7750 and TeliaSonera Picks Alcatel Service Routers).

    Tilley couldn't comment further on the importance that TiMetra's technology is playing in Alcatel's strategy, or whether such uptake is heralding a shift in the router market, as the company is currently in its quiet period ahead of its second-quarter results due to be released on July 29.

    But the TiMetra box is clearly a major weapon in Alcatel's arsenal. CEO Serge Tchuruk singled it out during the vendor's most recent results conference call as having rapidly growing appeal, and the French vendor is even pushing the 7750 as its core router offering (see Alcatel Turns a Corner and Alcatel Sticks to Core Plans). BT, though, has opted to use it only as the edge platform for this trial, and is sourcing its core router technology from...

  • Juniper, through its partnership with Siemens (see Siemens, Juniper Join 21C Trial). The German vendor is supplying Juniper's T640 router "to perform the MPLS tasks in the network," says Siemens spokesman Harald Hassenmüller, while it's also providing its own Surpass hiG 1200 trunk gateway that manages voice traffic between the IP network and the existing circuit-switched infrastructure. Hassenmüller says lab tests and network deployments are underway.

  • Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI), which announced the supply of its access hub and softswitch technology last month when BT unveiled its 21CN plans (see Marconi Softswitches With BT). Marconi has since announced an upgrade to its softswitch by adding SIP capabilities, a key requirement for BT's 21CN (see Marconi Adds SIP to Softswitch).

    In addition to the VOIP project, BT is also undertaking a fiber-to-the-home trial later this year, with ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL) as the primary supplier (see BT Selects ECI for FTTP Trial). While the operator couldn't provide an update on the progress of the VOIP lab tests and field deployments, a spokeswoman says the fiber is currently being laid for the FTTH project, with ECI expected to deliver its Hi-FOCuS 4 access gateway in mid-August.

    BT has stressed that involvement in its trials does not guarantee any contract awards for the construction of the live network, and has made it clear that none of the vendors, including its incumbent suppliers, can presume they'll be included.

    It is also highlighting the importance of delivering standards-based systems and is involved in the development of new technical specifications that will underpin the technology of future, converged, IP-based networks (see ITU Puts Convergence Center Stage).

    The operator is undergoing a separate process for the procurement and testing of the OSS systems that will support the 21CN architecture (see BT Pins Down OSS Deals).

    — Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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