The six-slot customer premise box, which was unveiled on Monday at the Optical Fibre Conference, is a slimmed-down version of Nortel's Optera Metro 5200, a two-year-old switch sold to service providers offering metropolitan area bandwidth access.
Positioned as a platform that enables service providers to offer multiple enterprises wavelength service in a shared model, rather than provisioning dedicated private lines to each customer, the Optera Metro 5100 uses coarse wavelength-division multiplexing (CWDM) technology.
CWDM is a cheaper than DWDM, and is achieved by swapping out the lasers and filters and replacing them with more cost-effective technology. This makes the box more affordable but also creates distance limitations, as running multiple wavelengths on a single strand causes interference between signals.
However, Nortel reports this distance limitation is part of the plan. Executives believe the 5100 will allow service providers to accommodate multiple customers over a shared infrastructure, therefore lowering the overall cost of bandwidth.
"By grouping traffic together into one band, service providers can reduce their equipment costs and the cost of [signal] amplification," said Jack Hunt, director of metro optical marketing for Nortel. "Enterprises are interested in deploying applications that need high bandwidth."
The 5100 offers two wavelengths from each box, and if eight 5100s were placed in a metro ring and interconnected to the 5200, 16 wavelengths could be offered Hunt explained.
Nortel has also mapped the wavelength grid pattern of the 5200 into the 5100, which allows traffic coming in from enterprises (via 5100s) to be terminated directly in the 5200, thus eliminating the need for a head-end switch to connect the access ring with the core.
The 5100 competes with Ciena's MultiWave Metro One product and ONI's Online 2500.
Nortel also unveiled a modelling tool to assist with network planning and enhancements. The tool now displays service provisioning graphically.
General availability of the 5100 is slated for May. Pricing starts at $19,000 (£13,400) for the most basic configuration.