France Telecom has a GPON tender out to vendors as it plans a $350M FTTH rollout over the next two years, say sources

February 7, 2007

3 Min Read
Vendors Vie for FT GPON Deal

BARCELONA -- FTTH Council Europe 2007 -- Fiber access equipment vendors are lining up to pitch for a gigabit passive optical networking (GPON) deal at Orange (NYSE: FTE), which is planning to spend €270 million (US$351 million) on a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) buildout during the next two years. (See FT Fleshes Out FTTH and PON & FTTx Update.)

The carrier is believed to have a GPON equipment request for proposal (RFP) out with vendors at the moment, with bids due in by April as the carrier ramps up its FTTH rollout. France Telecom deployed Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) GPON equipment for its 2006 trials. (See FT Unveils NGN, FTTH Plans.)

But that newly formed giant vendor faces stiff competition for FT's new GPON business. ECI Telecom Ltd. , which is an incumbent VDSL2 equipment supplier to France Telecom, plans to pitch its GPON solution, executives said here today. (See ECI Adds GPON and ECI Drops Despite VDSL2 Coup .)

And talk on the show floor pointed towards at least another three hopefuls. Industry executives with knowledge of FT's RFP process say they expect Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) to put itself forward. The Swedish vendor is keen to be an FTTx player, and is developing a GPON blade for its multiservice access node (MSAN). (See Ericsson: Hungry for PON.)

Ericsson is playing it cool. "We have a number of priorities this year, and GPON is one of them," says Peter Linder, the vendor's director of network strategy, but he wouldn't be drawn on any RFP comment.

The surprise name being linked to the RFP is French firm Sagem Télécommunications SA , which is best known for its customer premises equipment. But the company has a DSLAM and already resells Atrica Inc. Ethernet gear for point-to-point active Ethernet deployments -- and it has won such business in France with CiteFibre .

However, it hasn't been active in GPON to date. But one industry source suggests Sagem has held OEM talks with GPON vendor Terawave Communications Inc. , which already has a similar deal with Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Ltd. (See Fujitsu Picks Terawave.)

A Sagem executive here in Barcelona says a relationship with Terawave is possible, though "no decision has been made yet." He adds that a relationship with another GPON vendor, from the Asia/Pacific region, is also possible.

Terawave had not responded to a request for comment as this article was published.

Another name suggested, but not known to be preparing a bid, is Siemens Communications Group . It won a GPON deal in Denmark in October 2006 with Danish utility EnergiMidt , which has been commercially deployed since December last year. Siemens executives here in Barcelona couldn't comment on any ongoing bids or trials.

Whoever wins any initial GPON business at FT will not get rich as a result -- only a small, but unknown, portion of the allotted €270 million capital expenditure will be spent on GPON equipment. But the initial rollout, which covers about 1 million French homes, will be followed by a much broader, national rollout in 2010-2012, industry analysts believe.

As a result, vendors are keen to gain incumbency with a view to being part of the broader rollout, not only in France but in other territories where FT has broadband plans. (See France Telecom: 'More IPTV, Please'.)

That, and the fact that FT is the first major European incumbent to commit to FTTH and will therefore be a showcase for others, makes this a deployment that others will watch closely. Roland Montagne, head of broadband practice at French research house Idate believes 2007 will see many regulatory issues resolved in Europe, followed by a number of major FTTH rollout announcements by European incumbents in 2008. GPON is expected to be the dominant FTTH technology deployed in Europe.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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