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11:00 AM -- MILAN -- FTTH Conference 2011 -- Here's something we didn't expect to find on the show floor in Milan -- a 21CN reunion.

Loitering by the Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. stand with a camera (as you do), Light Reading spied two former BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) colleagues deep in conversation, and couldn't resist behaving like the paparazzi to get the picture below.



Matt Bross, the former CTO at BT, and Matt Beal, who was 21CN program director at the U.K. incumbent a few years back, worked closely together on the British operator's next-generation network strategy during the first few years of the 21CN rollout.

Beal was the first of the Matts to leave BT, heading back to the U.S. in mid-2008, while Bross left for his current position at Huawei in 2009. (See Matt Bross Joins Huawei as CTO and BT Exec Exit.)

It's good to see Bross out and about again, though it was a surprise to see him here, even though Huawei is one of the vendors pushing hard with next-generation PON technology developments. (See Etisalat Trials Huawei's 10G GPON and BBWF 2010: Huawei's 10G GPON Coup.)

Beal, meanwhile, is the CTO and senior VP for product development and network strategy at CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), where he faces the task of creating a unified next-generation fixed broadband access strategy for a company that has been created from three different networks (CenturyTel, Embarq and Qwest), each of which had a different broadband access strategy. (See Qwest, CenturyLink Plan $22.4B Marriage and CenturyTel + Embarq = CenturyLink.)

So what does he have planned? And will it include Huawei? Beal's giving nothing away just yet -- he says he has to formulate a strategy and present it to his board first -- and points out that he's here to talk to a number of systems vendors, but don't be surprised if CenturyLink's access plans are based on GPON, and don't be shocked if the U.S. operator engages in some way with Huawei (or at least tries to).

Beal believes the current anti-Huawei sentiment in the U.S. will thaw over time. "It's not much different to what it was like in the U.K. six years ago," notes Beal. (Huawei, of course, is deeply embedded in BT's optical core and fixed broadband access networks.)

EuroBlog's not sure about that, and also too distracted by all these BT reunions to think about Huawei in the U.S. -- what gives? (See BT Pals Reunited.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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