Nortel Networks Corp. claims a new router can cut carriers’ edge routing costs in half, but one analyst warns the device would bring in new costs.

The Multiservice Provider Edge (MPE) 9000 series, which is designed to provide

access to multiple services on carriers’ Internet Protocol Multiprotocol Label Switching (IP/MPLS) core networks, can cut service providers’ capital spending by 60 per cent, and operating expenditure by 40 per cent, Nortel said.

The router series, announced Monday in Miami at the Carrier Inform 2004 trade show, is scheduled to ship during the fourth quarter of this year. Pricing has not been announced.

However, the device would allow carrier to save money because they would have fewer platforms — and therefore fewer skill sets required — at their central offices and network points of presence, said Scott McFeely, Nortel’s general manager for wireless networks.

But Nortel may be underestimating how much it will cost carriers to re-train their engineers and maintain the equipment, said Joe McGarvey, senior analyst for carrier infrastructure at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis Inc.

“”It’s nice on paper to consolidate all these components and all these processes into a single box, but there’s a lot of other operational things, like retraining people,”” McGarvey said. “”There are processes in place right now, all of that has to be changed, and that’s a lot of money the service providers will have to spend.””

The MPE 9000 is the first product in a category dubbed “”multiservice edge,”” designed to let carriers combine different services, including voice, data, wireless and multimedia, on to IP/MPLS networks through one edge device.

Service providers are losing revenue from voice lines, and although IP traffic is growing, competitive pressures are reducing the prices they can charge to users, McFeely said.

“”These challenges have created an unstable business model,”” he said. “”They’re looking to transform those networks into a common IP/MPLS core, and that has significant ramifications for the edge of the network.””

Carriers need an edge device that not only provides access to different IP/MPLS services, but also provides better reliability than traditional Internet services, McFeely said.

“”What has been the benchmark for an IP router of three-nines reliability — or 150 minutes of downtime per year — is simply not acceptable when you start talking about overlaying regulated voice traffic on to these networks,”” McFeely said.

Nortel claims the MPE 9000 series will give better than 99.999 per cent reliability.

Reliability is the top concern cited by carriers in most industry surveys today, McGarvey said.

“”Folks are talking about putting their legacy traffic over this converged MPLS core, and it has to be at least as reliable as the (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) networks there were out there before,”” he said.

McGarvey added the MPE 9000 “”has the potential”” to “”push beyond”” the offerings of Cisco and other carrier equipment manufacturers, and praised Nortel for designing the product from scratch.

The MPE 9000 is not an extension of either the Passport or Shasta product lines, nor does it replace them, McFeely said.

“”Nortel has done a good job of defining this category and what’s needed,”” McGarvey said. “”Whether they follow through or not, time will tell.””


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