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Global Crossing to test latest Lucent optical gear

Lucent technologies says the telecommunications carrier will test the gear this week, proof that its latest optical system is well on its way toward commercial introduction.

Lucent Technologies offered proof Wednesday that its latest optical system is well on its way toward commercial introduction, announcing that telecommunications carrier Global Crossing will test the gear this week in Europe.

Lucent has claimed to be in tests with its latest optical system for most of this year, but until now, the company has not revealed which network operators were using the new 40-gigabit capacity systems.

The introduction and testing of the equipment is significant for Lucent as it attempts to revitalize what was once one of its strengths--optical networking. The company expects this latest system will help it win back market share it lost to rival Nortel Networks. Lucent is one among several entrenched firms like Nortel and Cisco, as well as a slew of smaller firms like Sycamore Networks and Corvis, that hope to sell their equipment to network operators that can't keep up with the explosion of Internet and private data and voice traffic on their networks.

A Lucent spokesman said the new system, a significant capacity upgrade over the company's current offering, will remain in development with customers for the rest of the year, with commercial availability scheduled for next year. He said a "handful" of customers have been testing the new gear this year.

Global Crossing will test the new system across a 71-kilometer link between Brussels and Antwerp, in Belgium, with the results of the trials presented at an industry trade show in Barcelona, Spain, at the end of the month.

Lucent has been beset by a series of recent fiscal woes and executive changes that have see story: Lucent's loans gone bad raised questions concerning its future as a top-tier network equipment provider.

Lucent made what is widely regarded as a strategic blunder and fell behind in developing higher capacity optical systems in recent years, missing out on huge growth in the construction of fiber-optic networks. As a result, Nortel has garnered the lion's share of the business.

Nortel dominates the North American optical transport market, for example, with a 38 percent share, according to market researcher RHK. Lucent trails Nortel with 14 percent. The total optical equipment market is predicted to be worth $29.3 billion this year alone, according to RHK.

"Lucent was behind the curve. I guess you could say they missed the curve," said Chris Nicoll, an analyst with market watcher Current Analysis, noting Nortel's dominance in current 10-gigabit optical systems.

Nicoll said Lucent appears to be "at the head of the pack" with rivals Nortel, Ciena, Cisco and others in development of the higher capacity 40-gigabit gear, but he doesn't expect the technology to be widely launched in networks until late next year.

Separately, Lucent said it has struck a deal to supply optical systems for the construction of networks by Japan's KDDI and Russia's TransTeleCom network.