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Managing Editor

Packets to circuits?

Dec 20, 20023 mins
Network SwitchesRoutersVoIP

Lucent augments venerable Class 5 switch with incremental packet upgrade

Lucent Technologies last week broadened its circuit-to-packet migration offerings with a switch and switch components designed to enable service providers to evolve Class 5 networks to IP.

Lucent Technologies last week broadened its circuit-to-packet migration offerings with a switch and switch components designed to enable service providers to evolve Class 5 networks to IP.

Lucent’s 5E-XC switch for its 5ESS circuit switches nearly triples the capacity of the venerable Class 5 system while requiring less floor space, according to Lucent. The switch also features Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which enables the 5ESS to support new services in addition to existing telephony services, according to Lucent.

However, an IP card that runs the SIP software won’t be available for the 5E-XC for about another year, Lucent says.

The 5E-XC rollout is significant in that it suggest a very gradual – slow as a crawl, even – migration from circuit-to-packet telephony. It indicates Lucent’s resolve to maintain its 5ESS circuit-switching base for as long as possible while other established and start-up vendors are pushing more revolutionary and disruptive paths to packet telephony.

The 5E-XC supports up to 256,000 trunks, compared to 92,000 trunks on a 5ESS switch. The 5E-XC can save service providers up to 50% annually on the total cost of owning a switch, including office space, power, cooling, installation, maintenance and software-upgrade costs, Lucent claims.

The switch can be deployed as a stand-alone system, or its components can serve as incremental adjuncts or upgrades to a 5ESS. These components include:

•  A communications module, combined with new software, that can enable a nearly threefold increase in capacity with one-twelfth the space and one-tenth the power.

•  An optical interface unit that, at 120,000 trunks, enables a tenfold increase in the number of trunks per cabinet or rack.

•  A signaling platform that uses 40% less power and supports larger call volumes.

There is also switch software (5E16.2) that features call-forwarding to five different numbers simultaneously, and a Centrex call transfer feature that identifies the individual initiating the call rather than the individual transferring the call. 5E16.2 can be enhanced through software downloads at a savings of 75% over previous software upgrade options, Lucent says.

SBC is deploying the 5E-XC in its local network to interconnect with wireless and long-distance carriers in an access tandem switch application. SBC also offers an IP Centrex service based on Lucent gear.

Analysts say the 5E-XC may keep the packet wolves at bay.

“The 5E-XC announcement, as well as the customer announcement with SBC, is a major proof point that Lucent is executing on its strategy to focus on its traditional customer base as it stabilizes financially,” states Joe McGarvey, an analyst at Current Analysis, in a report issued last week on the new Lucent product. “The new system gives Lucent’s current customer base a smaller, denser TDM network friendly solution to current 5ESS CO build-out issues. Both legacy equipment makers, as well as start-ups advocating a more drastic upgrade path to packet telephony, will have to adjust to Lucent’s announcement of the 5E-XC.”

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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