Entrisphere readies access gear for incumbent carriers

Despite the dour telecom economy, a startup looking to bring convergence capabilities to incumbent carriers this week landed a sizable round of venture funding.

Entrisphere Inc. bagged US$33 million from Accel Partners, Benchmark Capital, Crosspoint Venture Partners and others. This is in addition to initial funding of $13 million Entrisphere gathered last year when it set out to challenge telecom access-equipment giant Alcatel SA.

Entrisphere's gear, while still unannounced, would sit in carrier access networks and marry the existing circuit-switched telephony infrastructure to packet networks. This would enable convergence of voice and data services while facilitating a gradual migration to packet-based services - without requiring a wholesale replacement of existing equipment, says Entrisphere President and CEO Mark Floyd.

The device, he says, would connect directly to customer access lines and support traditional single-line phone service, ISDN and DSL, as well as packet services such as Ethernet. The gear would sit either in service provider switching offices or in remote terminals that link back to switching offices. The equipment would aggregate services and tie customer voice and data traffic back into provider networks, where it would be handled by existing voice and data switches, Floyd says.

While initially targeting Alcatel, the leading supplier of traditional access gear to service providers, Entrisphere will face a number of other smaller competitors, says Jon Cordova, directing analyst of access research for Infonetics. They include AFC, Zhone Technologies, Catena Networks and Calix.

Cordova says Etrisphere's strengths lie in its software - its hardware is based on off-the-shelf-parts - and the awareness of the company's technical staff of what incumbent local carriers want and need. In particular, Entrisphere's familiarity with the management needs of regional Bell operating companies should put the company in good stead, Cordova says. This will make it easier to provision services, and reduce the cost of running the network, he says.

Floyd says the company will meet RBOC standards for blending into existing operations support systems. The Entrisphere gear will also eliminate the need for network devices such as add-drop multiplexers, DSL access multiplexers and digital loop carriers, he says.

Entrisphere has a stable of former Bell Labs engineers with backgrounds in making equipment now deployed in major carrier networks. They can use this expertise to address RBOC requirements for next-generation service provisioning equipment that utilizes current gear.

The company just named Floyd president and CEO. Most recently he was an entrepreneur in residence at Crosspoint Venture Partners. Before that, he was a founder of Efficient Networks, which was sold to Siemens for $1.5 billion in April 2001.

Efficient made its reputation on customer-site gear to access carrier networks that was interoperable with most of the access equipment carriers were likely to have in their networks.

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More about Accel GroupAlcatel-LucentBell LabsBenchmark CapitalCalixCarrier AccessCatena NetworksCrosspoint Venture PartnersEfficient NetworksProvisionSiemensZhone Technologies

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