Aurora Networks Plays the 'Green' Card

Aurora Networks Inc. thinks it has a simple answer for MSOs that are thinking about reducing power consumption and greening their cable facilities: Deploy its "Fiber Deep" architecture. And it hopes the idea will catch on in Europe and among Tier 2 U.S. MSOs. Fiber Deep is an architecture that reduces the number of RF "actives" (mostly power-hungry amplifiers) cascading from a cable network node to zero (because of this, Fiber Deep is sometimes called an "N+0" cable network). Traditional hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks tend to have between two and five amps (N+2, N+5) hanging off a given network node. MSOs also get a downstream and upstream capacity gain with Fiber Deep because they are serving fewer homes (100 or less) per node off the same bandwidth (many HFC systems still serve 500 homes or more per node). Because the amount of actives are reduced by 70 percent to 75 percent with Fiber Deep, "the carbon footprint of the cable system goes down dramatically," claims John Dahlquist, Aurora's VP of marketing. Suddenlink Communications , one of the MSOs using Fiber Deep, found that power costs in its Malvern, Ark., system dropped to $1.80 per home per month, which compares to about $4 per home in its other systems with similar home-per-mile densities that use regular HFC. Aurora is right in line with the rest of the industry's green obsession. The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) is going as far as featuring a "Green Pavilion" at the 2009 Cable-Tec Expo (Aurora's submitted an app), set to run Oct. 28-30 in Denver. Cox Communications Inc. has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 40 percent by 2017. (See SCTE Expo Going Green and Cox Greens Up Its PCs.) Capacity is king
Dahlquist says the power and cost savings of greener technologies aren't Fiber Deep's most important attributes. "It's the gaining of capacity that's the first card played," he says. He adds that he doesn't think a cable operator would rebuild its plant "just to save on operating expenses." Although power savings will reduce costs longer term and MSOs do get a capacity boost, the act of deploying Fiber Deep can be more expensive in some instances. Dahlquist estimates that Fiber Deep deployments generally cost 3 percent more or less than traditional HFC, but could carry a 20 percent premium if an operator chooses it for a plant that was upgraded five or six years ago and is still in decent shape. These days, Aurora is finding most of its Fiber Deep success with private Tier 2 U.S. MSOs and with operators in Latin America. It claims that more than 125 networks on five continents have deployed the architecture since 2002. Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. of Canada is among Aurora's marquee Fiber Deep wins. The vendor also hopes a new node optimized for underground plant will help it grab some traction in the European cable theater. The architecture hasn't taken hold at larger U.S. MSOs such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which is being aggressive with an analog reclamation strategy. (See Videotron Plants 'Fiber Deep' , Aurora Launches Into Europe, and Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan .) But even in a down economy, deals for Fiber Deep are running about equal to last year. "We're sort of holding steady across all the product lines. But it certainly isn't a boom year," Dahlquist says. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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