AlcaLu: We're Not Just a GPON Player
PARIS –- FTTH Council Europe Conference -- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), regarded as the most aggressive flag-waver for GPON in the mass market fiber access world, says it's not just a PON player and has been picking up point-to-point active Ethernet business too.
And as if to prove its point (geddit?), the vendor announced a point-to-point fiber access customer yesterday: Danish ISP Sydfyns Intranet A/S, which plans to hook up each of its customers with a dedicated fiber connection to offer triple-play services in the southern Danish region of Fyn using AlcaLu's 7302 Intelligent Services Access Manager (ISAM) platform.
The announcement comes at an interesting time in the European FTTH market. Some smaller, competitive vendors fear that AlcaLu's full-on promotion of GPON -- and its influence in the market and at events such as this one -- could leave the point-to-point active Ethernet specialists under-represented and at an unfair disadvantage, just as fiber access deployments start to gain pace in the region. (See Report: EMEA Set for FTTH Surge.)
But AlcaLu says it's ready to meet all potential customer needs in the FFTH space, and that it is a technology-neutral company (something it stresses in other domains, too -- see AlcaLu's Alwan: PBT Will Lose Its Shine ).
Addressing the technology press here in Paris, Luis Martinez Amago, the president of AlcaLu's fixed access business, said the vendor is technology agnostic when it comes to broadband -- but then followed that statement with a heavily slanted pitch promoting the virtues of GPON.
According to Amago, GPON has emerged as "the best option for mass market FTTH," and will dominate deployments during the next few years. And it's not alone in this view: Nokia Networks is banging the same drum here in Paris.
According to AlcaLu, PON is set to be responsible for 85 percent of FTTH subs come 2011, while point-to-point will account for just 15 percent.
Are those independent statistics? Not really: The vendor's VP of marketing at its Access Division, Jean-Pierre Lartigue, notes they're a mixture of analyst numbers and feedback from AlcaLu GPON customers such as Orange (NYSE: FTE) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). (See Verizon Deploys GPON.)
But Lartigue and Amago are adamant -– GPON is the right technology fit for large operators looking for an economic fiber access deployment that enables them to use installed infrastructure, such as their city ducts. In fact, Amago goes as far as to say that apart from instances where there is a high population density and a low expected uptake, GPON is the most economically viable rollout option.
Clearly, not everyone concurs. French alternative operator Iliad (Euronext: ILD), for example, is planning to spend €1 billion ($1.5 billion) passing 4 million French homes by 2012, and is deploying active Ethernet point-to-point technology. (See Iliad Tempers Its FTTH Target and Iliad Gets Active With FTTH.)
"It's an early choice," says Amago. "We hope they'll see as they roll out that there's a more suitable option."
Whatever Iliad ends up doing, the PON vs. point-to-point debate looks like one that will run and run –- at least in Europe, says Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie, who has just written a new report, FTTH Worldwide Technology Update & Market Forecast. (See FTTH Technology Fracas Continues.)
"Europe is where the real debate is regarding PON or point-to-point deployments. There are strong arguments for both technologies, depending on what the network operator wants to achieve. I'd say it's equally balanced in terms of the airtime the two camps are getting -– GPON is very likely to be dominant at the incumbent telcos, while point-to-point is set to dominate at the municipalities and utilities, which represent a significant market in Europe," notes Finnie.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading