US Jumping on Indoor ONT Bandwagon
It's happening today, as ONTs get smaller and sleeker in appearance to satisfy the demands of consumers -- particularly multi-dwelling unit types -- to get fiber-to-the-premises without the bulky box on the outside of the house.
Outside the US, "just inside" ONTs have long been de rigueur, but telcos initially deploying FTTX here wanted the same kind of physical demarcation point for fiber that they had for copper phone lines, explains Russ Sharer, vice president of marketing for Occam Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: OCNW), which has just been acquired by Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX). (See Calix CEO Claims Occam for Its Ethernet and Did Calix Get a Bargain on Occam?)
"The way we viewed POTS as lifeline service, US telcos wanted access to the equipment and the ability to troubleshoot," Sharer says. "For some Tier 3 telcos, there was also the issue of getting their costs reimbursed under rate-of-return regulation, and it wasn't clear that equipment inside the home could be included as part of their network."
What early deployers such as Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) learned, however, is that homeowners didn't necessarily like having big metal boxes installed on their houses, says Chuck Graff, director, Corporate Network & Technology, and actually preferred the idea of having them installed in a garage or an interior closet. That meant the equipment didn't have to be hardened for as wide a range of temperatures, which saves on costs, and installations could be simpler and take 30 to 40 minutes less per site, another way to save on costs.
At the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council Conference last week in Las Vegas, every ONT maker had at least one indoor ONT, and several had a range of products.
The trend has been aided by the addition of bend insensitive fiber, says Kevin Morgan, director of marketing at Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN), because ONTs can now be more easily installed indoors in the room of the consumer's choosing, and any technician can run fiber to that spot more easily.
ADC (Nasdaq: ADCT) now has what it calls a Real Flex Universal Drop Connector, which uses hardened fiber optic cable to the home connected to 18 inches of cable that doesn't have the hardened sheath, and a ripcord that enables a technician to easily remove more of that sheath to expose more of the much thinner indoor wiring.
"It doesn't seem like that big a deal, but with a much thinner cable, you can store the slack much more efficiently, in much less space," said Trevor Smith, director of carrier solutions for ADC’s Global Connectivity Solutions. (See ADC Expands Fiber Menu).
That ability to easy coil and store slack gives installing technicians greater flexibility as well as a chance to reduce install times, Smith adds.
Corning Cable Systems LLC (CCS) , which used the FTTH event to show off a wide range of new cable connectivity systems, provides a different type of cable for interior deployments, says Kara Mullaley, market manager, RBOC Americas Public Networks, for Corning.
"If you are going to go really deep inside the house, you need to have a flame-rated cable versus an OSP-rated cable," Mullaley says. Corning is providing new indoor termination boxes as well.
Some vendors believe indoor ONTs still need to be attached to a garage wall or interior wall to be protected, but even that barrier is falling, says Linnea Wilkes, marketing manager for 3M Co. (NYSE: MMM) Communications Markets Division, which had an Alcatel-Lucent ONT in its FTTH display that looked remarkably like an old-fashioned modem.
"People are getting used to devices like this, and they know how to treat them," Wilkes says. "This device can easily sit on a desk, like a wireless router or a set-top box. It makes installation much easier, and the consumer isn't going to object, like they sometimes do when you want to attach something to a wall."
Many of these devices are coming into use in the US now because MDU deployments require them, Wilkes says, since apartment dwellers don't have space for large boxes and may even refuse to take FTTP-based service if they have to accept bulky ONTs or ugly cabling.
What vendors are doing now is offering variety, concludes Brian McCaskey, chief marketing officer for Zhone Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: ZHNE), which displayed 18 new outdoor units at the FTTH show, but also has indoor units including some that could easily sit on a desktop.
"In some countries, like the United Arab Emirates or South Africa, the ONTs are all indoors, but in the US, to this point, they've been outdoors," McCaskey says. "What we are see now is a new set of units with new plastics that look better, and are sleeker and more like a home appliance, and we will see more of those deployed indoors."
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading