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Cisco advances telecom plans with new customers

The networking giant announces its first customers for a new high-end optical routing device that is expected to be a key to its telecommunications equipment strategy.

    Cisco Systems this week announced its first customers for a new high-end optical routing device that is expected to be a key to its telecommunications equipment strategy.

    Communications network operator WorldCom has completed an initial phase of testing, while privately held PetroNet has agreed to use the technology for the network it is building, according to Cisco executives.

    The new device, called the ONS 15900 Wavelength Router, is the result of Cisco's 1999 purchase of Monterey Networks. The outcome of that acquisition has been closely watched in recent months as the product's release was pushed back. Others building similar technology include start-ups like Tellium as well as entrenched Cisco competitors such as Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies.

    Cisco executives said they expect to generate initial sales from the router in the 2000 calendar year, though WorldCom is "several months" from completing its tests of the product, they said.

    Cisco bought Monterey for $500 million in August 1999 as part of an initial acquisition foray into the optical networking market that cost the company close to $8 billion. The company has since also purchased the optical unit of Italian firm Pirelli.

    Cisco executives said that in January of this year the company's design team held a meeting to re-evaluate a timetable for introducing the Monterey product, which is a sophisticated set of hardware and software intended for use in the network "core."

    "We're trying to be very methodical and very conservative," said Joe Bass, vice president and general manager for Cisco's wavelength routing business unit. Bass was formerly chief executive of Monterey.

    The price tag for the new router is expected to be upward of $1 million.

    News of Cisco's progress with the Monterey technology was announced as part of this week's National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference being held in Denver.