AlcaLu Bolsters LTE Core Strategy
It was about 12 months ago that Alcatel-Lucent said its 7750 Service Router line would be at the heart of its EPC offering, and that the other pieces would be filled by AlcaLu-designed boxes. (See AlcaLu Mines IP Smarts for LTE Core.)
Today's EPC announcement spells out some of those other boxes and also emphasizes that the whole kaboodle supports 2G and 3G -- a bit of reassurance to operators that see LTE as an opportunity to converge multiple mobile core networks.
"It's giving the impression that they're fully committed to it," says Gabriel Brown, a Heavy Reading senior analyst.
The announcement is a big deal to Alcatel-Lucent, but the company is relishing the chance to dig at the hyperbole around other recent announcements. "We're not claiming it changes the Internet forever or anything like that," says Lindsay Newell, vice president of marketing.
Today's announcement covers all four pieces of the EPC. As expected, modules in the 7750 will account for two of them: the Serving Gateway and Packet Data Network Gateway.
The Mobility Management Entity (MME) and Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) will be represented by two platforms announced today: the Wireless Mobility Manager and the 5780 Dynamic Service Controller, respectively.
Underlying all four pieces is the 5620 Service Aware Manager (SAM), now set up to support the wireless packet core. AlcaLu also uses the 5620 in wired networks, so this addition sets up the possibility of unifying the management of data and control planes for wireless networks and backhaul.
AlcaLu's homegrown policy management is a bit of a twist, as that's an area that's been ruled by smaller players -- Bridgewater Systems Corp. (Toronto: BWC) and Camiant Inc. , to name two. (See MWC Preview: Policy Vendors Strut Their Stuff.) When it comes to support for 3G, the 7750 will act as a GGSN and the Wireless Mobility Manager (the LTE MME piece) as an SGSN, AlcaLu says.
Alcatel-Lucent wanted to keep the GGSN and SGSN separate to boost the performance of each; signaling, in particular is going to take a heavy load in LTE, "with multiple applications per user and higher average bandwidth per user," Newell says. "You need a next-generation signaling platform."
The 2G/3G support is key, because AlcaLu is not playing from a position of strength. The company hasn't been a leader in the wireless core network, certainly not on par with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) or Nokia Networks , so it won't get the benefit of the doubt when operators ask about converting 2G, 3G, and LTE traffic onto the same core.
"That's pretty complex. It's handing over of terminals and security credentials. It's a major integration challenge. Whoever's incumbent in the 3G core is going to have an advantage there," says Heavy Reading's Brown.
Alcatel-Lucent's full commitment to the LTE core wasn't a given. The LTE market isn't big yet and will be very competitive. Keeping up will cost a lot of money. But the LTE core is a market the company can't ignore, Brown says.
"Quite a lot of early contracts are probably going to require an evolved packet core with your RAN, so you cannot build a big presence in LTE without an EPC. They had to get into that market. It's strategically vital to the company," he notes. "It's reassuring, if you like, that it's their IP division that's developing it. It's the successful, credible technology division within Alcatel-Lucent."
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading