Internet infrastructure product provider Unisphere Networks has launched what it describes as the industry's first multi-server edge router to meet the growing demand for Internet protocol (IP) services. The MRX offers native multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) from Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) on high-speed optical networks. Unisphere said that the router's capacity could scale from 40 gigabits per second (Gbps) to 320Gbps. Adam Judd, Unisphere's vice-president for the Asia-Pacific region, said: 'This is the very first multi-server routing switch in the world. It is unique because a lot of our competitors out there have multi-server devices but they're ATM switches with IP routing added to them. We are an IP router with ATM functions.' Mr Judd said network carriers and providers such as Cisco and Nortel had been providing ATM switching through the implementation of software-based router blades. 'Every single carrier agrees IP has won the war. IP will take over from ATM one day,' he said. 'But it is going to take time for people to abandon ATM for IP because there are no great cost incentives today for throwing away your existing ATM infrastructure. 'So we are solving the problem of ATM to IP migration, of bandwidth aggregation.' Mr Judd believes that soaring demand for broadband Internet in the region will drive the router's adoption. 'This is extremely relevant in Asia Pacific because every incumbent carrier in Asia Pacific has a massive ATM infrastructure. 'Today, the trend is moving towards broadband services . . . It [MRX] is going to save carriers money and help them to make more money from the services it can produce,' Mr Judd said. According to figures from International Data Corp, the number of broadband subscribers in Hong Kong is set to increase from 1.23 million last year to 2.11 million in 2005. The number of broadband subscriptions in China went up from 68,000 in 2000 to 437,000 this year, and is projected to reach 8.3 million by 2005. Unisphere was founded in 1999 as an alternative to Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks in the edge router market. According to a report by United States market research firm Dell'Oro Group in last month, Cisco led the market with an 83 per cent share, followed by Unisphere at 10 per cent, Juniper at 4 per cent and Nortel at 3 per cent. The company said it had sold 1,500 ERX edge routers in the region, with more than 90 per cent of incumbent carriers - including Pacific Century CyberWorks, China Telecom, SingTel and Telstra - using it for broadband remote access and IP routing. Eight carriers in the region are testing the MRX. Gartner's president of telecoms research Bertrand Bidaud said the technology of native switching was meeting the trend in the industry. 'ATM is now a legacy system which is in high demand,' Mr Bidaud said. 'What operators and carriers want is to reduce expenditure. Therefore if they can provide more services for users on their existing infrastructure, they are going to meet the market trend.'