Ericsson Makes Packet-Optical Play

Swedish giant unveils new packet-optical transport product to target network transformation projects

November 19, 2008

4 Min Read
Ericsson Makes Packet-Optical Play

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has emerged as a serious contender in the new, but important, packet-optical transport system (P-OTS) market with the launch of a new product, the SPT 2700.

The SPT 2700, a 32-slot box that incorporates TDM, carrier Ethernet, and WDM transport capabilities, is being aimed at carriers with network transformation projects based around the convergence of packet and optical transport capabilities. It was developed by the former Marconi optical team in Italy.

The convergence of packet and optical transport capabilities onto a single platform is considered an important development, as network operators seek to lower their capital and operating costs while dealing with rapidly increasing volumes of data traffic, particularly video-based services such as IPTV and streaming content from Websites like YouTube Inc.

And as carriers shift toward P-OTS deployments, Ericsson will be looking to target them with its new platform, combined with the edge routing and service support capabilities of its Redback portfolio, plus its own core optical WDM products. In effect, Ericsson is attempting to create the sort of end-to-end offering that Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is pushing so hard. (See Ericsson Wins ROADM Deal, Redback Targets AlcaLu – Again!, and AlcaLu Touts TPSDA.)

Due to become commercially available during the first quarter of 2009, the SPT 2700, according to Ericsson, boasts 320 Gbit/s of packet switching capacity (with plans to increase that to 800 Gbit/s) and 120 Gbit/s of SDH/TDM switching.

It supports Gigabit Ethernet, 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, and 40-Gbit/s Ethernet links, with plans to support 100-Gbit/s Ethernet, an area where Ericsson says it has been making some headway. (The vendor says it "successfully demonstrated" 100-Gbit/s Ethernet transport technology to several customers during October using its MHL 3000 WDM platform, and will now "begin field-based customer trials.")

The SPT 2700 also features DWDM interfaces, and a 4-to-9-ways Next-Gen ROADMs solution with WSS (wavelength selective switch) capabilities, along with 50 milliseconds recovery and a host of OA&M (operations, administration, and maintenance) features.

Then there's support for connection-oriented Ethernet services, one of the hottest topics in optical and packet circles.

The SPT 2700 initially supports Transport MPLS (T-MPLS), and "we will support pre-standard MPLS-TP [transport profile] when the standards work moves on," says Alfredo Viglienzoni, head of Ericsson's optical business. (See Transport MPLS Gets a Makeover.)

And when might that be? "Some people think there might be more stabilization [in the MPLS-TP standards process] by the end of summer next year, but that's just a feeling... There is still some debate about the standard," says Viglienzoni.

But Ericsson isn't limiting itself to MPLS-TP for its connection-oriented Ethernet strategy. It's considering support for PBB-TE (Provider Backbone Bridge – Traffic Engineering), too. (See A Guide to PBT/PBB-TE.)

“We favor MPLS-TP, but there is no religious choice," says Viglienzoni. "We are also considering PBB-TE, and we are monitoring that standards process. There is some interest in PBB-TE, but lately there has been more interest in MPLS-TP. But we don't want to be in a position where we might lose any business because we have put too much [emphasis] on only one technology.”

That approach makes sense, according to Heavy Reading senior analyst Sterling Perrin, who is monitoring the P-OTS market. (See Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise and Optical's Packet Magic.)

"In packet-optical transport, we see both PBB-TE and T-MPLS/MPLS-TP as legitimate contenders for connection-oriented Ethernet, with no clear winner in sight," says the analyst. "It's very likely that the market will ultimately be divided among the different flavors, depending on operator preferences."

But in leaning more towards MPLS-TP developments, "it looks like Ericsson will line up most closely with Alcatel-Lucent's 1850 TSS," adds Perrin. (See China Mobile Uses AlcaLu 1850.)

Certainly that's one of the products that Ericsson's Viglienzoni sees as a direct rival for the SPT 2700, along with the Flashwave 9500 from Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY) and the 7100 from Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA). (See Fujitsu Brings Flashwave to Europe, Fujitsu Pushes Ethernet, and Tellabs Touts Packet Optical.)

But it looks like a good time to be joining the battle with these relatively mature platforms, as the P-OTS market is only just starting to get going, according to Heavy Reading's Perrin.

"While several other vendors have had the basic platforms for packet-optical transport available for some time, the fact is that the full functionality for these platforms is just coming to market now. So, the market as a whole is brand new. We expect the P-OTS market will be worth about $40 million in 2008, so it's very new. If Ericsson can deliver this promised functionality quickly, they can move to the head of the pack very quickly."

Gaining an advantage on its rivals would mean commercial acceptance and positive carrier feedback, something Ericsson is working on: Viglienzoni says the SPT 2700 is in trials with three carriers currently, within and outside Europe, and is being tested by those operators for its support in fixed and mobile networks.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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