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Nortel, Motorola Team Up For Cable VoIP

Nortel Networks and Motorola, Inc. are teaming up to provide a low-cost alternative to expensive cable telephony roll outs, officials announced Monday.

Cable companies like AT&T Broadband , Cox Communications , Comcast and AOL Time Warner have had cable telephony services on their plate for a couple years now, but only on a limited basis. The problem: adding voice to their data networks requires separate voice-only equipment, which is like adding a second network (voice) over their existing (data) network.

Equipment makers like Nortel have been rushing to manufacture and deploy low-cost alternatives to voice networks before their competition gets a toe-hold in the market. Last week, rival Lucent Technologies announced its own cable VoIP solution: iMerge.

Costs for installing carrier-grade voice switches and routers is inherently expensive, and on a national scale, too expensive to deploy at one time nationwide.

Enter Nortel and Motorola, with their partnership to provide voice over IP (VoIP) solutions. VoIP is a data packet technology, with voice calls going from one computer to another in much the same way as Web pages and e-mails. Cable VoIP is seen as a much cheaper alternative because cable owners can just plug in inexpensive (compared to Class 5 switches) routers to the existing data network.

Tom Valovic, director of IP telephony at analysis firm IDC, said cable VoIP is still a fledgling technology and Monday's partnership announcement between two heavyweight manufacturers is good news for the industry if cable VoIP is going to succeed.

"Given the early stage of deployment of VoIP equipment in the cable industry, there are substantial benefits to cable operators from agreements such as the one between Nortel Networks and Motorola," he said. "Integrated and interoperable solutions will help speed the deployment of new networks that can support the bundled delivery of voice, data and cable programming and thereby enable cable operators to compete head to head with traditional service providers."

The tandem effort is a good match for the two companies, who have been working on VoIP products together for awhile already.

Nortel, the router equipment giant out of Canada, will modify their Nortel Networks Succession Communication Server 2000 softswitch with Motorola's data/voice routers to be used as a cable head-end. Motorola's multimedia terminal adapter (MTA) for cable modems will give end users advanced telephone services like caller ID, call waiting and call forwarding.

Both companies will share marketing and sales expenses. Both will also provide support and consulting services to help cable networks plan their network.

Bruce Swail, Motorola broadband telephony vice president and general manager, said the Nortel/Motorla combo will be the first all-encompassing VoIP package for cable networks.

"By providing an integrated solution from back office to switch to access network, Motorola and Nortel Networks will be the first to deliver a complete VoIP solution as a commercial product for broadband network operators," he said. "As a result, operators will be able to provide end-to-end VoIP performance and reliability while minimizing deployment risks. At the same time, they will be poised to be among the first to take advantage of the opportunities surrounding emerging converged services."