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Ultra-Broadband

BBWF: WDM PON? Bring It On!

PARIS -- Broadband World Forum Europe -- WDM PON might not be set for mass commercial deployment for a few years yet, but when it is, expect to see it rolled out in Italy.

While the technology, which delivers a dedicated, secure wavelength to each end user, has had some limited deployments (especially in Korea), it's not due to be standardized "until at least 2012, and most likely later," notes Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie in his recent report, "FTTH Review & Five-Year Forecast: The Road to Next-Gen PON."

But Telecom Italia (TIM) CTO Stefano Pileri, who made a keynote presentation on "Network and IT Renaissance" here in Paris, is excited by its capabilities.

"WDM PON... [is] a good technology that's coming. It's good for capacity, and it allows the virtual unbundling of the fiber," noted the Italian, who is keen to cut down on the number of central offices/local exchanges that are housing broadband equipment in Italy's cities.

And that's one of the reasons he's keen on WDM PON -- it requires very little in the way of above-ground physical space, even in large cities. It's also why he is not so keen on the point-to-point fiber access alternative that has already proved popular elsewhere in Europe, including Italy, courtesy of Fastweb SpA (Milan: FWB) -- so far.

"I don't believe in fiber point-to-point because we need to reduce the number of central offices we have," and point-to-point FTTH involves housing large-framed equipment in multiple locations, noted the CTO.

That opinion is likely to be shared by many incumbents, and will be music to the ears of the vendors already talking up WDM PON's potential. While the likes of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. are focused on promoting other flavors of PON (though all have WDM PON in development), ADVA Optical Networking , Nokia Networks , and LG-Ericsson Co. Ltd. are already vocal supporters, with LG-Nortel talking up some early but small deployments. (See LG-Nortel Shows Off at BBWF, LG-Nortel Extends WDM-PON Distribution, and WDM-PON Update.)

The pitch from NSN, which has abandoned its own GPON developments to focus on VDSL2 opportunities and the future potential of WDM PON, is right on Pileri's wavelength. (See Nokia Siemens Dumps on GPON.)

Talking during a media and analyst briefing here this week, the vendor's CTO, Stephan Scholz, said that WDM PON is the technology that can "unlock the potential of FTTH" and "eliminate the central office... all of Paris could be covered with just one site."

He said NSN will have a prototype unit soon that will demonstrate 1 Gbit/s per wavelength over a distance of 100 kilometers. He expects to have pilots with operators in 2011 or 2012, and commercial products in 2013.

That's some way down the line, though. In the meantime, Telecom Italia is deploying a mix of high-speed fixed broadband technologies and architectures, including fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) with VDSL2 copper tails, fiber-to-the-building (FTTB), and some FTTH using GPON.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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