SA Pitches Cable PON

Scientific Atlanta is the latest supplier to jump in with a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) platform, targeting greenfield builds where real estate developers are demanding fiber-fed broadband.

SA will offer a preview of its Docsis Passive Optical Network (D-PON), next week in Orlando at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo. (Yes, there are shows besides NXTcomm.)

D-PON is still being developed, with commercial availability expected by the fourth quarter. SA believes the technology will carry a 20 percent premium compared to a newly deployed HFC (hybrid/fiber coax) plant that supports one active amplifier off the node (N+1) and 250 homes passed, or a completely passive (N+0) implementation, according to Bob Tynan, director of business development for SA's transport and access network business unit.

While that premium will narrow as volumes ramp up, "we think it will be used only in areas where [an operator] has no choice," he says. Those situations, he says, are popping up because some developers want an FTTP solution and only an FTTP solution, believing that it will make new homes more attractive (and higher-priced). Without an FTTP arrow in its quiver, a cable operator is shut out of those opportunities.

FTTP "is starting to become the preferred access technology" in master planned communities, Tynan says. "It's starting to become a concern [for cable operators] and we wanted to get ahead of the curve rather than having to play catchup on it."

SA is supporting the architecture with a "TransAmp" 1550nm transmitter capable of supporting a 128-home service group. That will be coupled with two types of "home node" devices -- an "open burst" version likened to a low-cost node, and another that embeds a Docsis modem.

One trick SA is trying to pull off is maintaining a 24 dB optical budget while also keeping the architecture completely passive.

"We've been working on some technology, particularly in the upstream, to get there," Tynan says.

Migrating to a more passive network could grow in importance if cable operators decide to beef up their upstream bandwidth via what is called a "mid-split."

In most cable systems today, the 5MHz to 42MHz portion of the spectrum is dedicated to the upstream, but just more than half of that is considered usable. A mid-split would allow operators to get more upstream by using the cleaner range of 42MHz to 108MHz. Critics maintain the idea is "invasive" because it requires the operator to touch all the active devices on the network. Migrating to a more passive architecture, would reduce the number of actives on the system and, therefore, make the procedure less invasive.

Another key point with D-PON, according to Tynan, is that cable operators can manage this architecture using their legacy headends and traditional set-tops.

SA marks just the latest cable supplier to jump in with a system that will help operators address new-build opportunities that require FTTP.

At The Cable Show last month, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) introduced what it calls the "Cable PON." (See Moto Intros Cable PON.)

CommScope Inc. , meanwhile, is marketing a platform called "BrightPath." Alloptic Inc. and Wave7 Optics Inc. are also hawking FTTP systems to cable operators.

Although this market is getting more crowded, MSOs aren't exactly shouting about FTTP deployments from the mountaintops.

Still, there is some evidence of a trend. BendBroadband of Oregon has acknowledged some work in greenfields with Alloptic, and CableOne has teamed with Wave 7 to deploy FTTP in the Mariposa residential development in Rio Rancho, N.M.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 3:06:13 PM
re: SA Pitches Cable PON This comes from conversations I've had with cable engineers, but the latest one to discuss the challenges of the upstream (including usability) publicly is Wayne Davis, former Charter CTO, now chief of Vyyo:

But I'll do another survey with my sources to see if that picture has changed in their view.
Starstuff 12/5/2012 | 3:06:31 PM
re: SA Pitches Cable PON The author of this article states that "In most cable systems today, the 5MHz to 42MHz portion of the spectrum is dedicated to the upstream, but just more than half of that is considered usable."

Wht does this mean? I see no grounds for this comment. Even in areas where the 5-42 MHz spectrum is crowded and full of RFI the ability of coaxial cable to reject unwanted ingress RFI is superb.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 3:06:37 PM
re: SA Pitches Cable PON Good point. At least it looks like cable won't let the pride of its HFC architecture get in the way of these opportuniites.
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:06:43 PM
re: SA Pitches Cable PON These new homes, greenfields, are in the communities that demand all the latest services, and hence generate more ARPU. They are the ones that perceive fiber as required for taking advantage of these new services. Of course one could stay out of this market.

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