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Fujitsu enters packet optical game

Fujitsu Network Communications unveiled a new packet optical networking platform this week that combines Sonet and Ethernet switching with WDM. Fujitsu's Flashwave 9500, available in the fourth quarter, offers 480 Gb/s of Sonet or native Ethernet switching — the mix determined by the user — in a quarter of a shelf. A two-degree, quarter-shelf reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexer plugs directly into the chassis (upgradeable to include more degrees) with a single 10 Gb/s transponder.

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The 9500 is Fujitsu's answer to products introduced by its rivals a year ago. Last summer, when Alcatel brought its 1850 Transport Service Switch to North America, Lucent Technologies unveiled its packet optical product, the Universal Packet Mux (UPM), which was to be made generally available earlier this year. Now that both the 1850 and the UPM are sold by one company, Alcatel-Lucent, analysts see the more mature 1850, which gained traction in Europe before arriving in the U.S., eclipsing the UPM. An Alcatel-Lucent spokesman this month in an e-mail called the UPM “a fairly important product going forward” but wouldn't say when it would be generally available.

Since packet optical gear is designed to help transition carrier networks from Sonet to a mix of optical and Ethernet, Fujitsu will look to leverage its considerable footprint in the Sonet and optical markets to sell the 9500. According to Ovum-RHK, Fujitsu led the nearly $3 billion North American optical transport market last year with a 20% share (combining sales of aggregation and WDM gear).

One of the selling points of the new platform is its density. While previous gear has been based on 10 Gb/s slots, each of the 9500's 24 slots are 40 Gb/s. Another differentiator is its choice of packet transport technology. While Cisco Systems is marketing IP over WDM and Nortel Networks is promoting Layer 2 provider backbone transport (PBT), Fujitsu is favoring the use of pseudowires based on MPLS. Though eventually, Fujitsu plans to support PBT and Transport-MPLS as well, it's focusing first on pseudowires because the technology is more mature and further along in the standards process. “It's ready sooner,” said Rod Naphan, vice president of planning for Fujitsu.

“It's a good start for Fujitsu,” said Michael Howard, principal analyst for Infonetics Research. “Every carrier out there already has MPLS in their network. Every router has pseudowires in it. PBT is much newer.”

What's more, Fujitsu rejects the notion of PBT as a simpler alternative to MPLS, pointing out that the addition of a control plane will add to PBT's complexity. “Any of those [packet transport] technologies require the same amount of complexity to implement,” said Sam Lisle, director of market development for Fujitsu. “Service providers will favor one technology or another, depending on the characteristics of their network.”

Fujitsu is already expected to be one of the front-runners for a packet optical transport request for proposal to be issued this summer by Verizon, according to Morgan Keegan, an analyst for Simon Leopold. A foursome of leading contenders for that business — Alcatel-Lucent (with its 1850), Huawei Technologies, Nortel (with its Optical Multiservice Edge 6500) and Fujitsu — stands in “stark contrast” to the 15 or so vendors that fought for a Verizon ROADM contract in 2005, Leopold said. Tellabs won that ROADM contract in a surprise upset over Fujitsu; this year, Fujitsu will have a chance to return the favor.

NORTH AMERICAN MARKET SHARE 2006 OPTICAL TRANSPORT (AGGREGATION + WDM) $2984 MILLION ANNUAL MARKET

Nortel
$557 million
18.7%
#2

Alcatel-Lucent
$436 million
14.6%
#3

Siemens
$134 million
4.5%

New ADVA
$107 million
3.6%

Fujitsu
$600 million
20.1%
#1

Tellabs
$94 million
3.2%

Cisco
$388 million
13%
#4

Ciena
$199 million
6.7%

Other
$469 million
15.7%

Source: Ovum-RHK

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