AlcaLu Targets Wireless Backhaul

BERLIN –- Broadband World Forum Europe -- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) threw itself headlong into the IP wireless backhaul market here today with the launch of META (Mobile Evolution Transport Architecture), comprising three new products and a common management system.

The wireless backhaul space is the focus of much carrier and vendor attention: carriers because they spend so much ($19.5 billion in 2006, says one report) on backhauling traffic from their base stations; and vendors because a revamp of mobile operator backhaul systems is set to generate massive revenue opportunities as 3G services are launched and data traffic volumes grow. (See Backhaul Raises $19.5B, Carriers Face Backhaul Conundrum, Backhaul Packs 'Em In, T-Mobile's Backhaul Bugbear , and Mobile Backhaul Peaks in 2007.)

The vendor's aim is to attract carriers with an integrated system, under the umbrella of common management software, that will help manage the operators' growing volumes of mobile data traffic. Michel Rahier, who heads up AlcaLu's carrier and wireline business, says mobile operators need more cost-effective backhaul networks to meet their business cases, and "they need an all-IP architecture to do this." Such an architecture also enables "the quality of service capabilities that carriers need to be able to charge for differentiated service levels."

The company claims that META can help carriers reduce their backhaul costs by 44 percent over five years, compared with the cost of using leased lines for backhauling mobile traffic.

AlcaLu is already using this approach in the fixed networking world with its IP-based TPSDA (Triple Play Service Delivery Architecture). That comprises its multiservice access node/DSLAM, Ethernet aggregation switches, and routing and transport platforms. (See Agilent Tests AlcaLu Triple Play and AlcaLu Goes to BBWF.)

For META, "we are leveraging what we have already done in wireline," says Rahier, as the vendor is using some of the same product lines as in its fixed operator offering, but in new form factors designed for mobile backhaul buildouts.

The META products
The three new products are:

  • the 1850 Transport Service Switch-5, a multiservice optical transport product that is the latest version of the 1850 platform launched at the Broadband World Forum Europe event two years ago. (See Alcatel Unveils 'Universal' Metro Switch.) This version of the product will be available from December 2007. (See AlcaLu Unveils 1850 TSS-5.)

  • the 7705 Service Aggregation Router, a two-unit version of the 7750 router that has proved popular in fixed access triple-play deployments, and which delivers the QOS capabilities AlcaLu is stressing as a key differentiator. This will be available from February 2008. (See AlcaLu Unveils 7705.)

  • the 9500 Microwave Packet Radio product, for IP over microwave backhaul. This will be available in March 2008. (See AlcaLu Unveils 9500 MPR.)

Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan says the 9500 microwave product will enable AlcaLu to compete with the likes of Ceragon Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: CRNT) and DragonWave Inc. (AIM/Toronto: DWI; Nasdaq: DRWI) in the emerging IP/Ethernet point-to-point microwave system market. (See Ethernet Boosts Microwave Market, KPN Picks Ceragon, DragonWave Reports Q2, and Sprint, Dragonwave Make Deal.)

The integrated management suite "is definitely a differentiator," claims Rahier. "Carriers are investing a lot in their networks and they want it all integrated into their OSS environment." The management package acts as a network element management system and a middleware platform that works with a carrier's monitoring, service fulfillment, and billing systems.

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