Alcatel Pushes 100-Gig to the Edge

Alcatel-Lucent ( ALU) is pushing high-speed 100-Gbit/s Ethernet out to the edge of telecom networks, touting a new technology capable of handling vast amounts of content.

"100-Gig is very important to our customers," said Basil Alwan, president of Alcatel's IP division, during a conference call Thursday. "The network edge is becoming more and more capable; it has a lot more features and functions."

Alwan said that video, in particular, is forcing telecom providers to rethink their networks, as evidenced by the phenomenal popularity of services such as YouTube. The network edge is fast becoming the "command center" for delivering these services to users, hence the need to bolster capacity.

"Video is the data type that is really driving the massive bandwidth explosion," said Alwan, explaining that IP TV will only increase the strain on service providers' networks.

By introducing high-speed line cards that fit into its 7750 router and 7450 switch, Alcatel-Lucent is making a play for next-generation networks, even though the 100-Gbit/s standard is still being ratified. Alwan says that the cards will be commercially available once the standard is rubber-stamped, which will likely be in mid-2010.

Alcatel-Lucent, like its rival Juniper, already offers 100-Gbit/s capabilities on routers that sit at the core of the network, although the French firm has pushed ahead of its rival at the edge.

Juniper ( JNPR), which recently clinched a major deal with the New York Stock Exchange, does not currently offer 100-Gbit/s capabilities at on edge routers.

"What we're seeing at the edge is that customers are using 10-Gbit/s Ethernet at this point," said Wendy Cartee, vice president of marketing at Juniper. "10-Gbit/s is a very pervasive technology at this point, it's very mature, but 100-Gbit/s Ethernet is not a ratified standard at this point."

Juniper will eventually offer 100-Gbit/s at the network edge, although Cartee would not say when this will be.

"All our technologies are designed to with the capability to go to 100-Gig, but the question is when are the carriers able to deliver it," she added. "It will be offered at some point."

Networking giant Cisco ( CSCO) also has its eye on this space and ran a 100-Gbit/s test on its CRS-1 router last year. Cisco, however, has not yet responded to TheStreet.com's request for an update on its 100-Gbit/s plans.

Alcatel-Lucent, which recently posted its ninth consecutive quarterly loss, saw its share price sneak up on Thursday. The company's stock rose 6 cents, or 2.45%, to $2.51, outpacing the modest advance in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq rise 0.15%.

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