BBWF 2010: Adtran Rethinks FTTX Economics
Yes, that's called fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) in most circles, but this is slightly different: The technology deployed from the remote terminal to the customer premises equipment (CPE) isn't standards-based DSL but a proprietary flavor of Ethernet, and Adtran also wants the customers to install the broadband service themselves.
To achieve that, Adtran proposes having eight houses share each remote terminal that sits at the distribution node (on a telephone pole, for instance), reducing the in-home requirements to a media gateway that customers can set up themselves.
Adtran is calling this setup Ultra Broadband Ethernet (UBE) -- and is referring to the remote box as an ONT (optical network terminal), because it terminates the fiber link, even though the final link is over copper -- and is pushing this alternative approach here in Paris this week.
The goal is to give telcos a way to deploy 100Mbit/s symmetric services quickly, letting them compete more readily with cable operators' Docsis 3.0 offerings without incurring the expense of full FTTH deployments. (See Comcast: Upstream Bonding Tests Yield 'Sustained' 75 Mbit/s and CableLabs Eyes a Super-Sized Upstream .)
Adtran contends that FTTH stops making sense (economically) after 50 percent of a territory's homes are passed, and that has a lot to do with the complications of laying fiber. For example, "they may be able to get a fiber to a suburb on one side of the street, but then they can't get across to the other side," says Kevin Morgan, Adtran's director of marketing for carrier networks.
Under UBE, a carrier sends any fiber-access technology -- GPON, EPON, WDM-PON, active Ethernet -- out to the remote ONT near the customers' premises. The ONT would then send 100BaseT Ethernet to each home over twisted-pair copper. In nearly all cases, that distance is less than 75 meters, Morgan says.
New subscribers would be mailed a gateway box they install themselves; it plugs into a phone jack on one side, and a home gateway or integrated access device on the other.
The ONT would be powered by subscribers. Adtran is using an Ethernet variation that allows for power to get sent back into the network, "kind of the opposite of power-over-Ethernet," Morgan says. Subscribers might not be thrilled to learn they're footing the electricity bill, but the ONT uses only 10 W, which, when divided among eight households, equates to "no more than a little bitty night light," he says.
Adtran may face push-back from operators that aren't keen on proprietary technology, though. The vendor's remote ONT houses Ethernet chipsets that are being developed by Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and Lantiq Semiconductor (one has the product ready, one is still working on it), but it's not a standards-based development.
That doesn't mean there isn't any operator interest, though. Adtran says it has trials of UBE running with one provider in North America, another in Europe, and a third in the Middle East. Commercial release for UBE equipment is slated for the first half of 2011.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading