Lucent: PathStar Gone, VoIP Lives

In the wake of steep layoffs, Lucent Technologies officials confirmed last week that the company will discontinue its "PathStar" line of cable voice-over-Internet protocol equipment and that its cable-access division will be "mainstreamed" into other Lucent units.

But the company emphasized that it does not plan to exit the cable business and has other products emerging to replace PathStar gear, which was assembled and tested in Boxborough and Landover, Mass.

"We intend to continue addressing the cable market via our IP [Internet-protocol] services 'Switch 7/RE Imerge' platform and our professional service offerings and partnerships," a Lucent spokeswoman said, adding that Lucent's cable division will be folded into units responsible for the company's switching products.

"We'll be examining our options for our customers on a case-by-case basis," she said.

Lucent has not had many cable VoIP wins, and where it has won progress hasn't moved beyond the trial stage. Comcast Corp. is using PathStar equipment for its long-standing VoIP trial in Union, N.J.

Efforts to reach Comcast executives for comment on the situation were unsuccessful.

Time Warner Cable has deployed the equipment for a trial in Portland, Maine, according to sources. MSO spokesman Mike Luftman declined to say which vendors Time Warner has tapped for LineRunner, its second-line VoIP pilots in Portland and Rochester, N.Y.

High Speed Access Corp. also has a relationship with Lucent, and has agreed to buy $100 million worth of network equipment and software for IP telephony services over three years. HSA, collaborating with Charter Communications Inc. on a VoIP trial in Smyrna, Ga., said the effect of the PathStar move would be "minimal."

An HSA spokeswoman said the company would fill in with other Lucent products-such as its new PacketStar gear-and products from other vendors, such as Cisco Systems Inc., Clarent Corp. and Telcordia Technologies Inc.

Lucent's move typifies the sluggish start of VoIP among cable operators, said Kinetic Strategies president Michael Harris.

"I think the reality is that the cable VoIP market is developing far slower than most of the carriers and equipment vendors had expected," he said.

Harris said other vendors offer similar soft-switch technology, including Motorola Broadband Communications Sector, Cisco, 3Com Corp., Nortel Networks and Tollbridge Technologies. But modifications need to be made before they comply with PacketCable specifications.

Cable Television Laboratories Inc. released interim specifications for PacketCable last November. Lucent said it will continue to support that standard.

Despite a slow VoIP start, Motorola Broadband is involved in about a dozen "major" cable trials, said Glenn Altchek, director of marketing for VoIP. Motorola currently offers switched-IP and end-to-end VoIP systems to cable operators and has the right to work with AT&T Broadband on two initial VoIP trials.