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Ultra-Broadband

Verizon's Going Strong on GPON

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has been talking about GPON for a while now but up until recently, very little headway was made in actual deployments. Finally, at the beginning of this year, the company announced that, going forward, all new FiOS installations would be of the GPON standard. (See Verizon Preps GPON Push.)

So just how significant of a GPON deployment will this entail, and what has happened since the start of this year?

For now, the uptake has been minor so far. "Our strategy has been that with only a couple of exceptions, 100 percent of our new central offices will be going with GPON," says Michael Daigle, vice president of network planning for Verizon.

"As we fill our existing capacity of our embedded BPON offices, our growth vehicle in those offices will also be GPON," says Daigle. "I don't have any actual numbers, but I’d hazard a guess that the number of these growth jobs is going to significantly outnumber the new ones by the end of the year as we start reinforcing our capacity in a lot of our existing offices."

Currently, about 40 of Verizon's 600 central offices -- or about seven percent -- are GPON. Since sales lag construction however, the actual percentage of FiOS customers on GPON is significantly less.

How quickly the existing BPON offices get changed over to GPON will largely be dictated by demand, which is still increasing. (See Verizon Leads the Great 100-Mbit/s Bandwidth Race and Verizon Spells Out 100 Mbit/s.) Daigle says that many individuals won't need 50 Mbit/s in bandwidth, but it's not the individuals that typically drive demand.

"It’s a multiuser home," says Daigle. "It’s a couple of kids, mom and dad, and they've all got laptops, TVs with HD, video-on-demand -- when you start adding up everyone's small chunk of bandwidth, that becomes a real driver of demand and that's where you start seeing some really big numbers."

Looking beyond GPON, Verizon still insists that WDM PON is very much in its plans although there still are not concrete plans or timetables for deployment. "It'll happen once there's a convergence of three things," says Daigle. "There's the technology itself, the demand as far as what can WDM PON support that GPON cannot, and then there's the cost. Once you see those three converging, then that becomes our opportunity to deploy. It's not something we'll do in 2008 and probably not 2009. It could be 2010. Right now we're just tracking those three convergence items."

In the meantime with GPON, Verizon will be going forward with only two of its original three equipment vendors as Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) has announced that it is halting its GPON activities as they pertain to Verizon. (See Tellabs Kills Its Verizon GPON Efforts.) Daigle says there are no plans to replace Tellabs as its third supplier and it will move forward with Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) only. "We see them as equals on deployment. We aren't making any preferential decisions on market share. Alcatel is only the lead supplier in that they were the first out the door."

Finally, while 2008 is the year of GPON for Verizon, it is also the year of Docsis 3.0 for its cable competition.(See Teeing Up Docsis 3.0 , Comcast Enters the Wideband Era , and Cable MSOs Preach Capacity Over Speed.) But Verizon views the emergence of Docsis 3.0 as being akin to a gnat on its windshield. "I don't see how you can compare 150 Mbit/s shared bandwidth to 2.4 Gbit/s," says Daigle. "And then with upstream it's even worse. You can change your planning assumptions and tweak things, but there’s no comparison."

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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