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November 10, 2008

CMO of ECI Telecom Talks Evolution of Carrier and Service Provider Networks

By Tim Gray, TMCnet Web Editor

I recently had the opportunity to ask Laura Howard, CMO at ECI Telecom (News - Alert), about the evolution of the infrastructure for carrier and service provider networks, Carrier Ethernet, and the direction the company is heading.
ECI Telecom is a leading supplier of networking infrastructure solutions for carrier and service provider networks worldwide. ECI caters to wireline, wireless, utelcos and carrier of carriers service providers. Recently, ECI launched the 1Net business framework for optimized transition to next-generation networks, helping carriers migrate their networks while leveraging their existing investment. ECI's platforms are future-proof and support key applications including business services, voice, video and wireless backhaul.
Please outline your new corporate initiatives.
I think the most important one is 1Net.
1Net offers service providers a single, unified approach for network transition. 1Net represents our positioning in the market, and it is how the industry sees us– we have something different to offer and that something is 1Net. It puts all ECI efforts under a common framework.
1Net is not a technology, product or service, but a holistic approach that incorporates ECI's products, solutions and services offerings, expertise and experience to cover the entire life cycle of next generation network.  
1Net highlights ECI’s focus on optimizing service providers' transition from legacy-based networks towards Next Generation Networks (News - Alert). Next generation networks involve emerging technologies such as Carrier Ethernet, MPLS and GPON, services such as VoIP, IPTV/Video over IP and better optimized products. 
How is the Carrier Ethernet space evolving?
I believe the Carrier Ethernet market is evolving quite aggressively. It is a ~$4B market with double-digit growth rate as service providers migrate to next-gen networks and build their IP infrastructure.  We see a lot of the growth in developed countries, driven by continued growth of demand for bandwidth (residential broadband, mobile backhaul and shift to data, enterprise connectivity and applications).
This transition wave in emerging markets is one or two years behind the developed market, since these developing markets are more focused on GSM voice.
What pains does your company solve for customers?
ECI is the operators' partner for optimized network transition. This involves network intelligence, future-proof architectural agility, and new ways to increase providers’ profitability, while leveraging their legacy infrastructure and evolving it to NGN. Service providers are now facing several challenges as competition intensifies in their market. Their dilemma is how to remain competitive vis-à-vis their customers, without having to completely overhaul their networks to support new and advanced services. 

This is where ECI steps in. With 1Net, providers are able to grow, migrate and most importantly invest as demand becomes real. In addition, because of ECI’s future-proof platforms, operators can leverage the existing infrastructure with new, advanced cards and solutions. 

Another real concern is how to integrate all the different platforms and solutions within the network, without adding prohibitive operational costs to operators. By deploying solutions that are integrated under one single management system such as ECI's Lightsoft, operators can significantly save on the total cost of ownership for the network.
 Please discuss issues affecting tier-one national network operators and city carriers?
Tier-one operators are affected by competition from new entrants, cost-effectiveness of infrastructure, ability to provide next-generation services while supporting existing legacy services leveraging existing infrastructure and in some regions unclear regulatory environments that can significantly affect network ROI.
City carriers are also faces in some places with regulatory uncertainties around the use of public money for commercial network deployment. In the case of city carriers they are also faced with dilemmas regarding the type of network to deploy, long-term ROIs, and business models (e.g. open/closed/mixed network)
How does ECI Telecom help these providers achieve their goals?
ECI partners with carriers to understand their specific needs. There are no two networks alike. Each service provider faces specific competitive realities, regulatory constraints, network limitations, and there is not one cookie-cutter solution for all. ECI believes in understanding each of our customers’ pains and concerns and addressing them with the most optimized and cost-effective approach.  

One of our strengths is our offerings of multi-service platforms. The XMD family of multi-service provisioning platforms (MSPP) combines SDH, MPLS and WDM/ROADM (News - Alert) into one efficient platform. The Hi-FOCuS Multi-Service Access Node (MSAN) allows support for xDSL, fiber access services and next-generation voice services, also under one chassis. Finally, ECI’s recently launched 9000 family of Carrier Ethernet Switch Routers provides carrier-grade, smooth migration to next-generation networks. Our approach was to bring a transport mindset to carrier Ethernet, and we have succeeded doing that with the 9000 Family.

What do you want people to know about your business?
ECI believes in providing our customers with the best solution for their specific needs. 1Net epitomizes this statement by optimizing our offerings and solutions as we help our customers migrate to next-generation networks. As a private company, ECI is not held hostage by quarterly report of results, but remains competitive and transparent to our customers, partners and analysts. 

How do you think the future of the market looks?
Without looking in my crystal ball, I think that the future looks good. Challenging, but good. There are issues that carriers have to address sooner rather than later, such as how to make their networks environmentally-friendly. The “green” movement is not hype any more, definitely not where telecom is concerned. Telecom networks can be power hungry, space taking proposition. By focusing on softer “green” issues, both vendors and carriers can make a difference on how the future will look like.   It makes sense not only in terms of positive PR, but also economically.   The future, I think, is green, after all….
However, I think that in the short run the economic downturn certainly poses a key challenge. The main risk is CAPEX reduction by operators. Luckily, a significant portion of our sales is in emerging markets that continue to show strong growth. In the long run, once we pass the crisis, I think that the shift to next-gen networks based on IP technology shall continue to be key driver to migrating networks to carrier-Ethernet and further deployment of broadband and metro WDM infrastructure.

Tim Gray is a Web Editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Tim�s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tim Gray

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