Moto Expands 'CablePON' Strategy

While some vendors are already helping cable operators pull fiber all the way to the premises in so-called greenfield areas, heavyweight supplier Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) is still fleshing out its "CablePON" strategy and nearing the field trial stage.

Motorola unveiled a CablePON initiative in May at The Cable Show but has since decided to apply that focus toward a young standard called RF Over Glass (RFOG), and a broader, fiber-fed system that will look and smell like GPON. Both will be used to support the cable industry.

Cable's interest in fiber to the home stems from some master developers insisting on the technology for new home developments, believing it will help builders fetch premium prices.

"There's definitely a perception out there that fiber to the home is better," says Shawn Esser, senior product manager at Motorola's Home & Networks Mobility division.

Motorola expects to enter field trails in the first quarter of 2008. But competing vendors like Alloptic Inc. , CommScope Inc. , and Wave7 Optics Inc. are already in test or deployment mode with MSOs such as Armstrong Cable , BendBroadband , Bresnan Communications LLC , CableOne , and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC). (See CommScope Sees BrightPath for Cable FTTP.)

Scientific Atlanta , now part of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), is also entering the market with a cable FTTP play called the "Docsis Passive Optical Network" or DPON. (See SA Pitches Cable PON.)

The RFOG technology Motorola is pursuing could get standardized sometime in 2008, based on talk that's been stirring since June. (See RF-Over-Glass on Deck? , RFOG Update , and Sifting Through the RFOG.)

While RFOG will give operators some standards for FTTP deployments, Motorola believes those standards will also give cable a migration path toward GPON.

"I think [RFOG] is a short-term solution to get them over an existing hurdle [to address] the pressure they're facing," Esser says. "Initially, it's a perception-based thing, and RFOG takes care of that perception nicely."

GPON needs some preparation work, though, because the standards don't "fit well" with MSOs, Esser says.

In addition to expanding on GPON's 20-km distance limit, Motorola is adding a backoffice system, built by its cable modem termination system (CMTS) group, that can talk to an MSO's legacy Docsis environment.

Until that new backoffice is ready to go, operators could start with a parallel GPON network and then make a switch to the more cable-friendly environment, Esser says.

All this fiber-to-the-home talk is nice, but it's primarily aimed at new builds. Separately, operators are continuing to upgrade their hybrid fiber/co-ax networks -- Cox Communications Inc. being one example. (See Cox Makes 1 GHz Moves and Cox Flips BigBand's DV Switch .)

Like Cox, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is using switched digital video (SDV) to free up some bandwidth. But Comcast also says it's investigating a new, undisclosed compression scheme. (See Comcast Ready to Reclaim Bandwidth.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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