Cisco, GI plan AT&T/TCI IP network

Cisco Systems and General Instrument (GI) will work with AT&T to develop technology for an IP (Internet protocol) network to allow AT&T to offer data, voice and video services over the hybrid fibre-coax network now being built by AT&T and Tele-Communications (TCI).

The deal is non-exclusive, and Cisco and GI have not signed contracts with AT&T to provide equipment and hardware for the network. AT&T continues to work with a variety of vendors and partners to develop the advanced network, an AT&T spokesman said yesterday.

"The agreement we've announced . . .is to work on research and development," said Dave Johnson, spokesman at AT&T. "There is no signed agreement, no signed contract. They've just basically announced their intent to work on development with us."

The technology would allow AT&T to offer its customers the ability to watch TV, send and receive faxes, use the Internet and talk on the phone simultaneously using a single cable line. The proposed merger between AT&T and TCI was approved at the end of December by the US Department of Justice.

The proposed network would use voice over IP technologies to enable less expensive delivery of these consumer services. "Using broadband-packet technologies, data, voice and video services that traditionally required construction of multiple parallel legacy networks would be delivered using one integrated high-speed infrastructure," said Cisco and GI in a statement yesterday.

AT&T's Johnson said that the company can't right now assess exactly how great the demand will be for advanced network services, but that overall the clamor for communication services is "skyrocketing" and being heard from both consumers businesses.

"Demand is really incredible right now," he said. "It's coming from all sectors. Things that we would not have considered three years ago are commonplace today."

A bit over a year ago, AT&T announced plans to "future proof" its network and "that means one major thing -- to prepare to handle any kind of traffic over any volume over any distance anytime or anyplace," Johnson said. "It sounds easy, but when you step back and look at it, it's quite a challenging undertaking."

Thus, today's announced plan to work with Cisco and GI on research and development and AT&T's ongoing efforts to collaborate with other vendors, he said.

Combining broadband Internet, phone and video services over a single cable line brings Cisco closer to implementing future integrated data, voice and video telecommunications for the mass market, John Chambers, president and chief executive officer of Cisco, said in a statement.

Despite the non-exclusive nature of the agreement, the Cisco statement sounded positive regarding the company's ongoing work on the technology and what that will mean for the future development of the AT&T network.

Chambers said in the statement that the collaboration "will result in a New World network that will fundamentally change the way communications services are delivered to the consumer market."

The IP backbone that Cisco has proposed would use Cisco's 12000 Gigabit Switch Router, a multi-gigabit, carrier-class, IP backbone router, along with its Universal Broadband Router, which allows the cable modems to communicate with the backbone network, according to Cisco.

Cisco has also proposed that, along with partners, it will manage the network, including call processing and provisioning.

The gateway to the IP network would be provided using GI's DCT-5000+ in-home terminal. This will allow videos, IP-based telephony and data to be delivered simultaneously to the home, according to Cisco.

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