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Optical/IP

Wavium Unveils Metro Optical Switch

Swedish startup Wavium AB has kept a low profile since it was launched in summer 2000, but it could be about to make waves in the market for metro equipment.

The company has developed a 16x16-port optical switch with an electrical core that handles OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) channels. In this respect, it’s similar to the switches made by Tellium Inc. (Nasdaq: TELM) except that it’s been designed specifically for metro applications. It has a lower capacity than Tellium's switches, but it's much smaller and much less expensive, according to Carl Wickman, Wavium’s CTO.

The target price of Wavium’s switch, the WX1000, is $2,000 a port when fully populated, Wickman says. Tellium declines to say what the equivalent price would be for its switches. It points out that its switches are addressing a totally different set of requirements in long-haul networks, where reliability is crucial.

However, Krishna Bala, Tellium's CTO, says Wavium may be onto something. "It could result in a paradigm shift," he says. "Customers will start wanting to do full wavelength switching, end to end." He also thinks that Wavium's timing "might be just about right."

Wavium has already developed prototypes of three products -- its switch, the WX1000, a CWDM box called the CX1000 that crams four wavelengths into a fiber, and network management software called WaveMaster -- and Light Reading has witnessed a demonstration of them in action.

Wavium says its gear is in trials with an unidentified service provider, and it expects to start commercial shipments in the next couple of months.

Wavium also recently clinched a marketing deal with Opto Comm AB that could help it sell significant amounts of its equipment. Opto Comm builds networks for some of Sweden’s leading carriers, including Telia AB, Tele2 AB, and Song Networks. It plans to offer Wavium’s switch for appropriate projects -- and there’s likely to be plenty of those, according to Arne Asplund, Opto Comm’s CEO. The operators of 300 or so municipal networks in Sweden are looking to upgrade their infrastructures, which have become bottlenecks preventing the rollout of broadband services, Asplund says. Wavium’s switch will enable such operators to “get more out of their networks in a cost efficient way."

Wavium’s switch enables operators to provision circuits from a remote management console, eliminating the need for engineers to visit sites to set up equipment manually.

The 16-port WX1000 can be used in conjunction with the CX1000 to use fiber infrastructure more efficiently. The CX1000 takes up to four wavelengths and funnels them into a single fiber, and it can do this for two fibers. In other words, eight ports can be used for wide-area connections while the other eight ports are used for connecting local devices, such as gigabit Ethernet switches, Sonet/SDH add/drop multiplexers, and so on.

The low cost of the WX1000 results from it being a single-card design, according to Wickman. Wavium has managed to do this without sacrificing flexibility, he says, by using small form-factor, pluggable transceivers. Instead of having different interface cards for connecting different types of equipment, it has different transceivers that can be plugged into a card.

The big issue with Wavium’s approach is similar to the one facing Tellium: Whether service providers want a switch that handles whole wavelengths or a grooming switch that can pack wavelengths with smaller bandwidth connections as well as switch the wavelengths -- the metro equivalent of the CoreDirector from Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN).

Wickman says switching whole wavelengths makes a lot of sense in metro networks, in view of the variety of traffic types they’re likely to carry. In a Wavium network, the switches are protocol independent, so service providers can bolt on whatever edge equipment is appropriate. In a lot of cases, that’s likely to be gigabit Ethernet switches because of their low cost, he notes.

Not everybody agrees with this view, of course. Some folk say that right now most service providers don’t have enough traffic of different types to have one wavelength handling Sonet/SDH, another handling gigabit Ethernet, and so on. They want each wavelength to carry a mixture of traffic, generated by a multiservice provisioning platform.

Wavium’s founders came from Telia’s research labs, so they probably have a good understanding of what service providers are looking for. Telia and a number of private investors provided seed funding for the company, which now has 23 on staff.

A further round of funding is under negotiation, according to Mikael Hedlöf, Wavium’s CEO. Getting this money in the current climate is lkely to be Wavium's biggest challenge, even if the company's technology is timely, notes Tellium's Bala.

Hedlöf, however, is thinking further ahead. ”We have to prove the concept and get some reference customers in Sweden,” he says. “When we’ve done that, we will look at a more international approach, working with partners."

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com Want to know more? This very topic is the subject of a couple of sessions at Lightspeed Europe, Light Reading’s annual conference, on December 4-6, 2001, in London. For details, see: Metro Networks: Latest Developments, Optical Switch Case Study

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