Cisco, Ericsson partner on IP carrier gear

Cisco and Sweden's Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson Wednesday announced they have signed a multi-year agreement to jointly sell IP infrastructure equipment to telecommunications service providers.

The move is partly designed to bring multiservice networks using IP technology to market more quickly, along with the services using those networks, Cisco and Ericsson said in a joint statement.

"It is a wireline agreement for the moment," said Cisco spokesman David Cook, adding that future wireless agreements between Cisco and Ericsson are a possibility but currently in the realm of speculation. The companies are not disclosing any financial details of the agreement for the time being, he said.

The strategic alliance will combine Cisco's core routers and switches with Ericsson's softswitch product line, Cook said. Based on IP packets, softswitches are carrier-class servers that are not tied to the switching hardware they control, and are particularly adept at combining IP voice and data services.

Cisco says the arrangement is actually much broader than IP telephony. The two companies will attempt to modernize the public switched telephone networks of their joint customers through a combination of Cisco product and Ericsson systems integration capabilities, says Tony Bates, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Carrier Core and Multiservice Business Unit.

IP telephony is but one component of the arrangement, Bates says. Another is a broadband offering that combines Cisco’s 10000 series router – which is optimized for broadband remote access server applications – and Ericsson Ethernet DSLAMs with Ericsson service creation software, he says.

The relationship will not include any joint development, Bates says. It will revolve around joint testing and integration of combined products into systems.

Bates would not comment when asked if Cisco’s next generation core router, dubbed “HFR” and due to be announced May 25, will be part of the Ericsson arrangement.

“IP core infrastructure plays a key role,” Bates said. “Ericsson is looking at us as a solution.”

Bates also decined to speculate on the revenue potential of the Ericsson deal but he did say that Cisco considered it as strategic as other billion-dollar partnerships with companies like IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, EDS and KPMG.

According to Cisco and Ericsson, existing customers Telefónica SA in Spain and Telstra in Australia have already expressed enthusiastic support for the alliance.

Cisco, in San Jose, has similar agreements with other suppliers such as Motorola, Nokia and Siemens, though the Ericsson deal will have "no impact on those primarily wireless-focused relationships," Cook said. Lucent also sells Cisco wireless network equipment.

In the wireless market, Ericsson, of Stockholm, has a partnership with Cisco rival Juniper.

Ericsson has recently been highlighting the importance of partnerships as well as outsourcing its services as the company moves ahead with 3G network deployment.

Network World's Jim Duffy contributed to this report.

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