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Platform built for combo of copper, fiber

Posted: 18 Mar 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:entrisphere? multiservice access platform? broadband loop multiplexer 1500? tds telecom? internet protocol?

Startup Entrisphere Inc. is taking a studied approach to the multiservice access platform market. To match the growth plans of its carrier customer base in a sector that has seen its share of boom-and-bust cycles, the company has just officially rolled its Broadband Loop Multiplexer (BLM) 1500, but the system has been shipping to select carriers for several months. TDS Telecom has signed a multiyear contract with Entrisphere to deploy multiple systems for triple-play services throughout the U.S.

The goal of Entrisphere's designers was to develop a system that combined aspects of a next-generation digital loop carrier, along with those of the Internet Protocol (IP) DSL access multiplexer architectures currently replacing DSLAMs based on asynchronous transfer mode. Because the BLM 1500 can integrate passive optical services, the multiplexer can help aggregate fiber to the premises and ADSL2/2+ networks. The intent is to deliver a system that allows carriers to offer switched digital video and HDTV over any combination of copper and fiber.

"There's been a significant underinvestment in access, except for DSL [digital subscriber lines], since the start of the recession, and we're hoping to take advantage of that," said Peter Bourne, SVP for marketing and business development at Entrisphere. Bourne and CEO Mark Floyd came to Entrisphere from Efficient Networks Inc. and Siemens AG. The company has grown to 120 employees, most in Santa Clara, with a heavy nod to workers with telecom expertise. The company also has a significant base in data specialists, including Unix pioneer Ken Thompson, who is now an Entrisphere research fellow.

Voice-over-IP remains an important market, and Entrisphere's system operates as a media gateway for an IP-based soft switch. However, Bourne emphasized, the intent is not to compete with voice gateway specialists like General Bandwidth, but to offer an integrated multiplexer architecture for carriers that want to scale to 50Mbps to 100Mbps of services delivered to residential users.

Changing channels

One unique factor of the BLM 1500 is its embedded support for Internet Group Management Protocol. IGMP is used as the means to "change channels" in the IPTV world, said director of product marketing Don McCullough, and hence IGMP support cannot be located at a router. Switched digital video using IGMP is embedded on each service card, supporting the protocol over both passive optical networks (PONs) and ADSL2+.

The two center cards in the 18-slot, fully hardened 14RU chassis constitute a 60Gbps internal switching fabric. Separate service cards are offered for broadband PON, Gigabit Ethernet, DS-3 and OC-48. The system is environmentally hardened to NEBS-3 standards, and meets such interface standards as ITU G.983 for full-service access networks, GR-303, TR-08 Mode 1 and 2, H-248, and GR-253 and 487.

Entrisphere has designed its EntriView element-management system software to allow carriers to interface with the operation support systems with which they are familiar, through an abstraction the company calls "virtual network elements."

While Entrisphere is fanning out Layer 2.5 protocol support to service cards, Bourne said it draws the line at offering true routing. "We define access as Layer 2 and below, which means we integrate and terminate Layer 1 services, but we don't touch routing," Bourne said. "Yes, we bring IGMP where it belongs, but we're not trying to sneak our way into distributed routing."

- Loring Wirbel

EE Times

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