ITU Telecom: Occam Boards Euro FTTx Train

The North American presence at next week's ITU Telecom World 2009 event in Geneva is set to be a bit thin on the ground, but one company making the transatlantic trip is Occam Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: OCNW), which is using the show to launch itself into the European fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) market. (See Occam Expands in Europe, ITU Chief Defends Telecom World Event, and Geneva, Anyone?)

Occam is already established as a specialist provider of multiservice broadband access equipment (DSL and fiber access) and customer premises gear in the U.S., but it's now looking to expand its business, which generated almost $100 million in revenues last year, into Europe through a series of local partnerships. (See Occam Reports Q4, Occam Adds VDSL, Ethernet Blades, Occam Adds More GPON ONTs, Occam Brings FTTH to Santiam Canyon, Occam Lands Access Deals, and Occam Signs Two for GPON.)

So it's using the ITU show to showcase its arrival, having never participated in an industry conference in Europe before. The company plans to announce some of the local partnerships it has been building up during the past six months or so in markets including the U.K., Switzerland, Poland, France, Benelux , Italy, and Spain. Occam may even announce an initial customer in the region.

But the Occam team is going to find itself up against formidable opposition.

The European, next-generation, fiber-based broadband market is already swarming with industry big hitters, including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) (for point-to-point fiber access), ECI Telecom Ltd. , Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Ltd. , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763). (See Who Makes What: GPON & WDM-PON Equipment.)

And even in Occam's target markets of competitive operators, municipalities, utilities, and cable operators, the U.S. vendor will be up against entrenched local competition in the form of PacketFront AB and, for point-to-point (P2P) fiber access, Iskratel d.o.o. and Keymile AG . (See Keymile Heads to BBWF Europe, Iskratel Heads for BBWF, Europeans Ramp FTTH Rollouts, PacketFront Unveils GPON Gear, and PacketFront Wins in Norway.)

Occam's timing might be about right, as regulators and governments are now pushing hard to ease deployment restrictions and promote fiber access rollouts, some even with financial support. Those efforts, in turn, should help the European FTTx market to grow during the next few years: A recent Heavy Reading report, "FTTH Review & Five-Year Forecast: The Road to Next-Gen PON," suggests the number of FTTH (P2P and xPON) subscribers in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) is set to grow from 4.1 million in 2009 to 24.4 million in 2013.

And a recent report from Pyramid Research suggests that Europe will need fiber access network rollouts to help it recover from the current economic downturn, a theory not out of step with the decision-makers at the European Commission. (See Pyramid: Europe Needs Fiber and EC Issues Broadband Funding Rules.)

Occam's VP of marketing, Russ Sharer, also believes the FTTH surge in Europe is yet to come. He tells Light Reading the vendor feels this is the right time to set up in Western and Central Europe, its main targets, because "the market is still in its infancy. We expect to see the market grow in the next three to five years," especially amongst the alternative carriers, municipalities, and other non-Tier-1 network owners.

And why would anyone choose Occam over a more local company? Sharer says Occam believes it can capture some attention with its focus on "simplicity -– we have a pedigree in telecom that's built on simplicity, and we have a background in Ethernet, a technology that the likes of the utility companies can understand. It's easy to deploy and support, and a big part of our proposition is that we support both GPON and P2P from a single platform, something we believe a lot of network operators will require."

The company's not sharing any more details just yet, though, or saying what level of business it's hoping for from its venture across the ocean.

Occam's first step is to get itself noticed, and with only a handful of its direct FTTH equipment rivals -- most notably Cisco, Fujitsu, Huawei, and ZTE -- set to compete for attention on the ITU Telecom show floor, Occam might just get some of the attention it craves.

Keep up with all the ITU Telecom show news at our ITU Telecom World 2009 microsite, including reports from Geneva as the event unfolds (or unravels).

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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