Nortel's Noisy With Optical Opportunity

In a bid to convince carriers it hasn't been left out of the Ethernet + Optical marketing melee, Nortel Networks Ltd. says it is adding integrated reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexing (ROADM) and Ethernet access capabilities to its 10-Gbit/s Optical Multiservice Edge (OME) 6500.

Separately, the company is also introducing a 2.5-Gbit/s member of the multiservice product line, called the OME 6130.

Heavy Reading senior analyst Sterling Perrin says the enhancements signal that Nortel is "positioning the OME 6500 as its flagship product." [Ed. note: Is it too silly to bring back the term "God Box"?]

The move shows that Nortel is keen to convince big carriers it can provide converged optical and Ethernet transport, the subject of many discussions these days in the RBOC management ranks. (See BT, Huawei Look Alive at C5 and Meriton Tackles Ethernet Transport.)

The addition of an integrated ROADM will also help Nortel compete with the growing number of vendors that already had ROADMs as part of their optical-Ethernet platforms. That list includes Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), and Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. , which have recently worked on combining their optical and Ethernet stories.

The 6500's ROADM capabilities are due to be available by the end of 2007. The Nortel announcement comes just months after Cisco added ROADM functionality to its ONS 15454 platform and Alcatel-Lucent announced it was purchasing long-time WDM partner Tropic Networks Inc. (See Cisco Shows Some Optical Love, Cisco Enhances Optical, Alcatel-Lucent Gets Tropical, and AlcaLu to Buy Tropic.)

Meanwhile, optical vendor Ciena has made a very aggressive push to provide Ethernet functionality through its FlexSelect portfolio of products and the addition of Ethernet transport to its CN 4200 box. And just a week ago, Fujitsu unveiled its Flashwave 9500 product, which combines Sonet and Ethernet transport with a ROADM. (See Ciena Continues Ethernet Push, Ciena Unveils Strategy, Ciena's Ethernet Push Pays Off, Fujitsu Updates the MSPP, and Fujitsu Intros 9500.)

Tackling Ethernet access
To tackle the Ethernet access market, Nortel has developed a new aggregation feature for the 6500 and enlisted the help of a new partner, ANDA Networks Inc.

The Canadian vendor is adding a home-grown PDH (plesiochronous digital hierarchy) gateway to the 6500 that will terminate traffic backhauled from Anda's EtherReach 2000 network edge platform, which enables carriers to provision Ethernet access services over their existing copper plants.

Nortel says the PDH gateway will be able to terminate hundreds of Anda EtherReach units.

Recent contract wins show there is interest in Ethernet-over-copper capabilities from the type of Tier 1 players Nortel will target with the enhanced 6500 platform. Earlier this year, for instance, Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) won an Ethernet-over-copper contract with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). (See Adtran Scores at AT&T.)

Where's PBT?
One surprising omission from the 6500's enhancements is Provider Backbone Transport, the controversial Ethernet technology that Nortel has been aggressively pushing for more than a year.

Nortel jumpstarted the PBT market with a contact win at BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), and the technology has helped the vendor get back into the Ethernet game by providing carrier-grade services over low-cost Ethernet equipment.

However, Nortel has yet to add the technology to the 6500 platform, despite stating over a year ago that it was aiming to do just that. Company representatives had no comment on the lack of PBT, saying only that PBT functionality was not available on the 6500 platform at this time. (See Nortel Launches PBT, PBT Gathers Support, Nortel on PBT: Today BT, Tomorrow the World!, and BT Likes Nortel's New Ethernet Flavor.)

New box edges into view
In addition to the 6500's enhancements, the vendor will introduce a 2.5-Gbit/s platform targeted at operators looking to provide business services, broadband services, and wireless backhaul. The OME 6130 multiservice convergence platform will offer TDM and Ethernet services, and will be compatible with Nortel's Optical Metro 3000/4000 and 6500 platforms.

The 6500's Ethernet access capabilities and the 6130 platform will both be commercially available from July.

— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading

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