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Nortel shows signs of new voice strategy

New technology from Nortel Networks offers first proof of true integration of the data networking expertise it acquired last year from the former Bay Networks.

New technology from Nortel Networks offers first proof of true integration of the data networking expertise it acquired last year from the former Bay Networks.

Though not due to ship until October, Nortel plans to release a new sophisticated routing device for branch offices looking to add voice traffic to internal corporate networks and connections to wide-area lines.

The unveiling Monday of a forthcoming new product within the company's Passport line of hardware offers a first glimpse at Nortel's Internet-based voice strategy, expected to be announced within the next month, according to company executives.

Nortel acquired data player Bay Networks in June of last year. Since that time, the company has integrated organizations, but has not yet developed a cohesive set of combined products, according to analysts.

But as an indication of how the Canadian telco equipment maker has evolved, Nortel may have taken a cue from Bay when it announced a partnership with PC heavyweights Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard in March of this year.

The latest version of the Passport includes routing technology from Nortel's Bay unit--now dubbed the enterprise solutions division--and Internet telephony and asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) technology from Nortel, according to executives. The new device essentially allows a remote location to implement several technologies on one network link, including transmission of voice and data.

The new hardware is targeted at corporate branch sites with up to 300 users. Prices will start at $7,850.

Bob Reason, a group manager for product marketing at Nortel, said the new Passport 5430 device represents the "first of a series of offerings" from the company that combines Nortel's historic voice expertise with Bay's data technology. The company also released a voice hardware module for its BayStack ARN router.

The new Passport offering will enter tests in July or August, according to Reason.

Earlier this week, Nortel chief John Roth said the integration of Bay into Nortel is all but over as the company closes in on the one-year anniversary of the initial deal.

"It's pretty well fait accompli," said Roth in an interview.