The race to provide reliable networks based on Internet
Telecommunications equipment giant Lucent
Technologies announced plans to evolve its circuit-based switching
technology today so it can deliver voice calls using a data--or
"packet-based"--scheme without losing the features, such as call waiting or
911 service, that users associate with their current phone system.
The new technology feeds into a trend that has enveloped the networking
industry from two sides: Telecom equipment manufacturers are honing in on
Internet technologies in order to provide a cheaper way for communications
providers to deliver services, while data and Internet equipment
manufacturers are scrambling to make their technology reliable enough to be
used in even the most demanding voice settings.
Lucent has long-stated its intentions in this area, but today it
announced new "glue" that will tie its traditional voice switching
technology to its emerging set of packet-based products--a side of the
company that will soon be buttressed with the finalization of the company's
$22 billion acquisition of Ascend Communications, expected in June.
Competitors Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks, along with a
slew of international telecom equipment firms, are among the companies
vying for a piece of the same market.
Lucent's new 7R/E Call Feature Server,
scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter of this year, essentially
takes the reliability features of traditional phone networks and moves them
to the data-based world of Internet protocol, or IP, networks and
asynchronous transfer mode, or ATM, cells, according to the company.
Service providers US Lec, Omnitel Pronto of Italy, Espire Communications, KMC Telecom are
among the initial customers for the new technology, according to Lucent.
Analysts have long assumed that Lucent, among several telecom equipment
giants eyeing the lucrative data market, would bring its expertise in
circuit technology and voice networks to bear in its drive to take a chunk
of the next-generation "converged" networking market. Tying voice and data
networks together over a single layout is a common thrust in the networking
industry these days as new carriers build out their far-flung layouts and
traditional communications companies expand their existing infrastructure.
In conjunction with Lucent's new call server technology, the company has
added a new 7R/E Packet Driver to its widely used 5ESS voice switching
device, allowing the hardware and software to handle packets like it
handles circuit-based connections. The company also rolled out other
elements in a strategy it has dubbed R/Evolutionary Networking, a term
intended to signify the revolutionary and evolutionary aspects involved in
Last year, Lucent launched two new products that also feed into its emerged
strategy, the PathStar and PacketStar high-end networking devices. The
company already licenses technology from Ascend it plans to use in its
strategy as well.