Hitachi and NEC's joint switch venture, Alaxala, has begun operations.

The backbone-network router and switch company was announced by the two in June but officially opened its doors today, 1 October.

"Under the recent expansion of the broadband network market, there are emerging business opportunities in establishing new Internet Protocol network service infrastructure among telecom operators and service providers," a statement by the two read.

What's Alaxala about? "Alaxala has established its corporate philosophy as 'Offering safe and secure network to people in the world and contributing to the realisation of rich and abundant information society'," is the answer. It will handle the development, design and manufacture of new networking products and sell them to Hitachi and NEC, and through distributors under its own name.

It begins with three products: the AX7800R high-end gigabit router, the AX7800S high-end multilevel switch and the AX5400S mid-range multilevel switch.

Hitachi and NEC both announced the Alaxala products under their respective brands and with their own model numbers on Friday. Hitachi will put the gigabit router on sale from Friday and the other two products on sale from December, while NEC will sell all three from December.

Hitachi executive vice president Isao Ono said the parent companies hope the venture will achieve sales of 40 billion yen (£202 million) in 2005. Hitachi owns 60 percent of the company and NEC holds the remaining 40 percent stake. Its headquarters are south-west of Tokyo, and it employs 320 people.