RAD Joins the Grandmaster Set

RAD Data Communications Ltd. is looking to differentiate itself in the mobile backhaul infrastructure market by adding Grandmaster timing capabilities into the new aggregation box that the vendor is promoting as its Little Box of Magic.

The "magic box," also known by its more catchy name, the ETX-5300A Carrier Ethernet Service Aggregation Platform, was unveiled at the recent Ethernet Europe show in Munich. (See Ethernet Europe's Magic Moments and RAD Aggregates Ethernet Services.)

Now the RAD Data team is taking it to the LTE World Summit in Barcelona, where it will seek to persuade operators that it's got that little bit extra than its backhaul rivals such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA).

The vendor believes it has an attractive pitch with the capacity and service capabilities of the box alone (see the press release for more details), but its trump card on this occasion is the addition of its own 1588 Grandmaster Clock (not Grandmaster Flash), the device to which all base stations (containing slave clocks) are connected for synchronization purposes, and vital for the delivery of time-stamped services such as voice.

That's quite a differentiator because, currently, mobile operators have only two other vendors to turn to for Grandmaster Clock functionality -- Symmetricom Inc. (Nasdaq: SYMM), the clear market leader, and Brilliant Telecommunications, which is now part of Juniper. (See Symmetricom Goes Multi-Sync, Juniper Outbids Rival in M&A Swoop and Has Juniper Missed the Backhaul Boat?)

RAD Product Line Manager Eyal Aloni notes that mobile operators currently install "a separate, dedicated box" for their Grandmaster functionality. "We are meeting the demands for carriers for fewer devices and fewer ports. ... We see this as an opportunity to help carriers free up capacity trapped in existing boxes," adds Aloni, who says several carriers are in the final stages of certifying the product (which, by the way, conforms to the Carrier Ethernet 2.0 management specifications).

Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Patrick Donegan believes the move could be a catalyst for greater competition in the backhaul system sector. "RAD has always been an innovator in the mobile backhaul space. Integrating a Grandmaster into the ETX product line has the potential to inject some much needed competition into the Grandmaster market," states Donegan.

RAD Data, along with its rivals, is hoping to see another wave of demand for mobile backhaul systems as operators upgrade their networks to 4G. (See Is Backhaul Bottlenecking Verizon's LTE?)

According to research firm Infonetics Research Inc. , the global mobile backhaul equipment market (including microwave backhaul) grew 8 percent to be worth $7.4 billion in 2011. It expects a cumulative $39 billion will be spent on mobile backhaul equipment during the 2012-2016 time frame.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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