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2008 Top Ten: Nortel News

Craig Matsumoto
12/22/2008

Nortel Networks Ltd. has been quite the punching bag of late, but the company did experience some ups in a year full of downs. Here's how the ride looked in retrospect.

10. Nortel does telepresence
It's not the first thing that springs to mind just now when you think of Nortel, but early in the year the Canadian giant jumped aboard the telepresence bandwagon.



9. Riding the wavelengths
WDM-PON is another interesting technology feather in Nortel's cap, this time through the acquisition of startup Novera.

8. PBT rolls on
Nortel's Provider Backbone Transport -- being molded into the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standard for PBB-TE -- got eclipsed by Nortel's financial and operational issues, but some carriers have expressed interest, or a lack of interest in some cases. The discussion Nortel brought to the fore is still relevant in a broader industry context, and it played a big role in midyear events such as NXTcomm.

7. Racing toward 100-Gig
Hey, everyone else -- Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) and Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN), for instance -- is doing it, so why not Nortel? 6. Success at 40-Gig
Some analysts say Nortel's jumpstart in 40-Gbit/s optical networking resembles the early lead it built in OC192, back in the day. The rest of the industry may be ready to pounce, but Nortel managed to get some noteworthy headlines out of the technology this year.

We wrote about Nortel's overall position when the company announced its engagement with BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE). (See Nortel Rolls On With 40-Gig.) Here's what else happened in the company's 40-Gbit/s annals this year:

As we all know, though, there was more to Nortel's year than upbeat technology announcements. A lot more...

5. 4G forsaken
The technology is still winning contracts with the likes of KDDI Corp. , but Nortel has made it clear it won't go it alone with 4G wireless. Partners such as Alvarion Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) are now a critical part of Nortel's proposition, while a plain old-fashioned selloff of the technology could be in its future. 4. The hammer comes down
It wasn't Nortel's biggest layoff news of the year. (See Nortel Slashes 2,100 Jobs.) But word in November of 1,300 more job cuts, at a time when it had become clear the global economy wasn't going to help anyone's turnaround efforts, was a particularly brutal blow. 3. Blast from the past
Not that Nortel needs to be reminded about the last downturn, but the names of Frank Dunn and other former executives came back into the news midyear as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) laid down fraud charges.

2. Of mice and MEN
Three months after CEO Mike Zafirovski announced Nortel's Metro Ethernet Networks unit was up for sale, there's still no clear buyer, although Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , and Nokia Networks have been flagged as possibilities. The possibility of Huawei moving into the Kanata, Ontario, neighborhood is only going to fuel talk of a Chinese bid further.

1. The big picture
Late in the year, analyst Mark Sue of RBC Capital Markets set his Nortel stock target price to zero, and other analysts noted that bankruptcy was a possibility. Nortel has since admitted it has researched its bankruptcy options, which in turn pulverized the stock.

Nortel's market capitalization was still near $2 billion in September, but the bankruptcy scare sent it down to less than $200 million -- and that set of numbers sums up the state of the company exiting 2008.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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