Ciena lands a `big deal'

BellSouth picks Md. company to supply network equipment

One-year contract

May 18, 1999|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

BellSouth Corp., the South's dominant local telephone company, said yesterday that it has picked Linthicum-based Ciena Corp. to supply network equipment.

Ciena makes gear that allows phone lines to handle more calls and Internet messages. The value of the one-year deal was not disclosed.

The Ciena equipment already has been tested by Atlanta-based BellSouth. It was deployed in five Southern states beginning in January.

Ciena spokesman Denny Bilter said his company and BellSouth decided to wait for the "appropriate time" to announce the contract.

"We view this as a really big deal for us," Bilter said.

The bulk of Ciena's sales in the past has been to long-distance companies, notably Sprint Corp. and MCI WorldCom Inc.

In an effort to branch out from this narrow base, Ciena has tried to win business from other kinds of communications firms, including the Bell local-service companies.

Ciena has already deployed its equipment on the networks of Bell Atlantic Corp., the local phone company that serves the Maine-to-Virginia region.

Bilter declined to make any forecasts of how quickly other Bell companies will buy and deploy Ciena gear, which expands a fiber-optic line's capacity by expanding one communications channel into several.

BellSouth spokesman John Goldman said buying Ciena's equipment would save money in the long run.

"Essentially what it amounts to is that we'll be able to avoid a large expenditure for buying a lot of additional fiber-optic cable," Goldman said.

Ciena shares rose $2.3125 yesterday to close at $26.5625, their high since March 12, when they closed at $26.8125.

Sun staff writer William Patalon III contributed to this article.

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