Nortel Rolls On With 40-Gig
That brings its 40-Gbit/s scorecard to 21 contracts, though most of them are with smaller carriers such as Alaska Communications Systems Inc. (ACS) , which was also named today as a new customer.
It's a streak Nortel has ridden since November 2007, when it announced that its Optical Multiservice Edge (OME) 6500 got picked for the Verizon Enterprise Solutions pan-European buildout. The technology in question started shipping in April. (See Nortel Takes 40-Gig to Verizon.)
The key has been Nortel's ability to run 40-Gbit/s signals on 10-Gbit/s infrastructure, says Infonetics Research Inc. analyst Michael Howard.
"What happens with most of the 40-Gbit/s modulation schemes is that you run at a 40-Gbit/s rate or a 20-Gbit/s rate," Howard says. On most fiber, those kinds of data rates introduce chromatic dispersion or polarization mode dispersion -- in other words, the signal starts getting gunked up, and the network must be re-engineered to compensate.
Nortel's technology runs at a 10-Gbit/s rate, using dual polarization quadrature phase shift keying (DPQPSK) to send 40-Gbit/s worth of data. That means no re-engineering; to other optical equipment, Nortel looks as if it's sending a normal 10 Gbit/s signal. (See Nortel Trots Out 40Gig.)
That lets Nortel bring the OME 6500's 40-Gbit/s capability into networks populated by other vendors' equipment -- and that's been key to many of the company's wins so far, says Philippe Morin, Nortel's president of metro Ethernet networking.
Other competitors such as Nokia Networks , which Howard says "is certainly, as of last year, the leader in 40 Gbit/s," haven't yet applied DPQPSK to 40-Gbit/s systems. Most vendors will end up working with the modulation scheme, though, if only because it's looking like the choice for 100-Gbit/s optical networking.
For now, much of Nortel's competition at 40-Gbit/s is coming from startups. OpVista Inc. is similarly claiming to produce 40-Gbit/s data rates using 10-Gbit/s wavelengths, but its CX8 system hasn't gotten up to production volumes yet. (See OpVista Runs With DMC for 40-Gig.)
Mintera Corp. and StrataLight Communications get mentioned more frequently, especially with the former having partnered with JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) and the latter being acquired by Opnext Inc. (Nasdaq: OPXT). (See Mintera Adds Cash, Partner, Mintera Challenges StrataLight in 40G Fight, and Opnext Steps Up With StrataLight.)
CoreOptics Inc. also offers 40-Gbit/s transponder subsystems.
While Nortel now has Bell Canada, Verizon Business, and Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) as customers, most of its announced 40-Gbit/s wins have been with smaller companies like ACS. (See Virgin Trials 40-Gig, Rascom Uses Nortel Optical, and Nortel 40G Goes South.)
Morin credits that to the smaller scale of smaller carriers -- it's easier for them to do things like migrate to a faster speed grade.
Some big carriers have gotten to 40 Gbit/s: AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), for instance, began running an OC768 backbone in 2007. (See AT&T Readies 40-Gig Backbone.) Nortel's hope is that more of them are readying plans to migrate up. "We're getting into the next wave, the bigger-scale type of network," Morin says.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading