Alcatel and Bell Canada Wednesday said the renewal of their four-year contract for digital subscriber line (DSL) technology moves Bell closer to providing advanced

Internet Protocol services to Canadians.

The agreement, worth approximately, US$400 million, comes just a couple of months after Alcatel announced a three-year, $250 million agreement involving the same technology with Bell rival Telus Corp.

Bell and Telus said Alcatel’s 7300 Advanced Services Access Manager (ASAM) platform, the centrepiece of both agreements, will help put them in a position to offer next-generation Internet services, such broadcast video, interactive video and video conferencing.

“”The platforms that are being provided by Alcatel allow us the possibility to grow into these services,”” said Tony Scandella, Bell’s director of technology development for high-speed services. “”Our intentions surely are to offer services beyond what we have at this time.””

“”The 7300 has in it the ability to have an IP services card and the backplane bandwidth to offer the next generation video services,”” added Geoff Cowan, executive vice president of sales for Alcatel Canada.

Though Scandella would not say exactly how Bell plans to exploit Alcatel’s technology, he did mention the rollout of symmetrical-speed services to allow Bell’s business customers to upload and download content at the same speed.

Bell said the agreement would extend the 7300’s reach to 85 per cent of DSL customers by the end of 2002. Bell first deployed the platform to its DSL customers in March 2001, and is currently serving 71 per cent of them with the technology.

The Telus deal, announced Jan. 23, includes the 7300, as well as Telus’ continued use of Alcatel’s 7670 Routing Switch Platform and its 5620 Network Manager, two products developed by Alcatel in Kanata, Ont.

Bell’s 7300 rollout covers Ontario and Quebec, while Telus’ will reach those provinces as well as Alberta and British Columbia, said Telus chief technology officer Dr. Girish Pathak.

“”This (the 7300) comes with a higher density. Instead of two shelves in a bay, you can have three, and it has lower power consumption,”” Pathak said. “”It allows us to roll out faster than with our other products. In the past, higher speed was used for high-speed Internet access, or for the business customer for their data applications. This allows us to have the multimedia service offerings.””

Indeed, Cowan attributes Alcatel’s DSL dominance in Canada — he said Alcatel has 96 per cent of the market — to the foresight of Canadian ILECs, early on recognizing the importance of being able to offer multiple services through DSL connections. While counterparts in the United States opted for cheaper applications that did well providing high-speed data service but faired poorer in attempts to offer multiple services, Canadian ILECs saw the value in Alcatel applications that were more expensive but offered more utility, Cowan said.

“”Primarily, the ILECS were looking at high-speed Internet there (the U.S.),”” he said. “”It’s very difficult to move the business case if you’re just looking at high-speed Internet, because there’s not enough revenue, there’s not enough value add.””

Cowan said Alcatel’s understanding of the value add is shown by its investments into middleware and multimedia companies so that Alcatel can offer customers like Bell and Telus more complete offerings. Last December, for example, Alcatel and Paris-based Thomson Multimedia said they had demonstrated DSL’s ability to deliver interactive and personalized television and movies.

So “”that our customers can be more successful, we’ve taken a look at partners. We understand the subtleties of these end to end services,”” Cowan said. “”Having one of the pieces of a very large, complex puzzle isn’t sufficient. It’s necessary, but not sufficient.””


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