February 12, 2001, 5:02 PM — Vendors of integrated-access devices for the customer premise face an inherent challenge. IADs are not the kind of thing that end users just wake up one day and decide to buy. The very idea of "integrating" access implies that the customer is looking for a single carrier to handle voice, data and Internet connections, either at the access level or (less frequently) in a totally converged, end-to-end network service.
So IADs are usually sold and installed by the carrier as part of a managed service, putting the burgeoning number of IAD vendors in tight competition to sign up those service providers. That's why it's interesting to see one of the early innovators in ATM-based IADs, Vina Technologies, now broadening its service-provider relationships with a push into central office equipment.
At last week's ComNet 2001 trade show in Washington, D.C., Vina for the first time showed off its initial CO-class product, the Multiservice Broadband Xchange 1000, or MBX-1000. Housing six T-1 service modules in a three-rack-unit chassis, the MBX-1000 is first of all an unusually dense access concentrator, supporting up to 96 T-1 ports.
The port density is key when you consider that Vina's typical target customer is not an incumbent carrier that owns its own COs, but an alternative carrier seeking limited collocation space or using common wiring closets of multi-tenant units.
Equally important to those service providers, the MBX-1000 integrates other key functions within the same platform. It acts in much the same way as a digital loop carrier system to concentrate lightly loaded phone lines onto efficient backhaul connections using the GR303 protocol. That allows oversubscription of voice trunks and enables the competitive local provider to minimize the number of expensive ports on Class 5 telephony switches. (Though woe to any carrier who doesn't take into account how many of its ordinary dial-up lines might be used for long-hold Internet access!).
The MBX-1000 also acts as a DS-0 cross-connect and frame relay switch, with plans for supporting DSL multiplexing, ATM switching, T-3 and optical connections, though initially it's just for T-1 aggregation. For successful carriers in larger markets, Vina is promising an upcoming 10-rack-unit chassis called the MBX-2000 that will hold up to 288 physical T-1 ports.
Vina's foray into the CO and collocation arena shows a clear understanding of the needs of its existing customer base. Vina tends to serve a lot of the kinds of CLECs that led with voice service and T-1 service and now must address broadband data needs for even mid-market customers if they want to survive and thrive.