Astral Point Ships Metro Optical System

FRAMINGHAM (07/24/2000) - Astral Point Communications Inc., an optical networking start-up in New England, is now shipping what it claims is the first of a new class of products for the optical metro access market.

The company announced general availability of its ON 5000 Optical Services Node, an optical access system that the company claims can improve the performance of high-speed, multiservice networks more than tenfold.

The ON 5000 went through four months of beta testing by six service providers, including interexchange carriers, competitive local exchange carriers and wireless service providers. The product was in development for 15 months. New features continue to be tested by service providers, even as the initial versions are being shipped, Astral Point says.

Analysts welcomed the ON 5000 with guarded optimism.

"While Astral Point becomes one of the first vendors to market, no additional customer wins have been announced," notes market tracker Current Analysis Inc. in a recent report on the ON 5000's release. "The product may be shipping but we don't to whom or who the trial partners are."

CurrentAnalysis praised the ON 5000's features and functionality, but hit the product's lack of high-end scalability. The product will face stiff competition from Lucent Technologies Inc.'s recently acquired Chromatis Networks offerings, as well as products from Cyras, Alidian Networks Inc., Mayan Networks Corp., Zaffire Inc. and a host of other targeting the hot metro optical space.

Release 1.0 of the ON 5000 node is a 16 slot chassis that houses line cards offering leased line, digital cross connect, IP, ATM, Ethernet and 32-channel wavelength add-drop services at speeds from DS0 - OC48c. It includes a so-called Optical Services Architecture (OSA) that the company says eases the process of upgrading today's SONET networks.

The OSA incorporates what Astral Point calls a Self-Healing Mesh algorithm, which the company claims enables SONET-quality protection and restoration capabilities, and makes efficient use of optical power and simplifies service upgrades. The ON 5000 product incorporates a patented optics technology that Astral Point says reduces light loss during optical transmission, resulting in less amplification and elimination of power-consuming components. This feature also enables rapid provisioning, the company says.

The Self-Healing Mesh provides sub-50 ms restoration capability and is fully interoperable with SONET networks made up of thousands of nodes, Astral Point says.

Also included in the ON 5000 is the ONset network management system, which incorporates a software "wizard" with a knowledge-based rule set that enables service providers to add hundreds of circuits in minutes instead of months, Astral Point says. ONset also provides centralized management of circuit aggregation, grooming, LAN interconnection, banding and transport functions, the company says.

ON 5000 also has an "autodiscovery" capability, which provides end-to-end circuit provisioning, self-provisioning, self-healing, automatic load balancing and automatic protection switching, Astral Point says.

The ON 5000 ranges in price from $30,000 to $250,000 per node, depending on features and capacity. Delivery is four to six weeks after receipt of order.

Astral Point recently concluded an $80 million third round of financing, bringing to $113 million the total amount invested in the company since its founding in 1998.

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