Cable Tech

Alloptic Pushes PON Scheme

Alloptic Inc., a startup specializing in Ethernet-based passive optical networking (PON) gear, says a new product set for unveiling sometime in the next few days will best the competition in the emerging fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) market.

The move is a vote of confidence for PON, a technology that uses passive optical splitters to siphon wavelengths from one fiber to many users. It's also a vote for the use of PONs in residential services, where carriers reportedly see an opportunity to reap revenues by offering so-called converged services, ones that combine voice, data, and video.

Alloptic says its new HomeGEAR 1000, comprising a telco box and home units, will provide up to 1 Gbit/s of optical bandwidth upstream to a maximum of 32 users. The residential unit will feature up to four 10/100Base-T Ethernet ports, two voice circuits, and support for IP video, and radio-frequency CATV links. Pricing will fall between $1,200 and $1,500 per home, Alloptic says.

The vendor says HomeGEAR 1000 is faster than previously announced FTTH PONs. And on the face of it, this appears to be so: FTTH competitors Optical Solutions Inc. and Wave7 Optics Inc. offer aggregate bandwidth of 208 Mbit/s and 500 Mbit/s, respectively.

But this kind of comparison can be misleading. The key to PON technology is not only how much raw bandwidth is available but how that bandwidth is actually put into users' hands. Factors such as power budgets, distance limits, and support for various types of video transmission are a factor.

Skeptics abound regarding the viability of home PON. Carriers such as SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) and Japan's NTT Corp. claim to be on track with plans. But so far, nothing solid (read: revenue-producing) has come of it.

Another key problem for vendors such as Alloptic and Wave7 Optics has been that they base their wares on Ethernet and IP, which don't conform to the ATM-based FSAN (Full Service Access Network) specs set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In the past, this has limited their access to key incumbent providers who were at least willing to listen to PON pitches, if not act on them.

Now, Alloptic and its competitors say that's changing, thanks to products like HomeGEAR 1000 that support converged services -- and thanks to the poor economy. Strapped for ways to offer more lucrative services, carriers, including RBOCs, are increasingly willing to look at anything that could help them get ready cash.

"RBOCs have changed. There's much more of a concentration on ROI and fundamentals," says Burnie Atterbury, Alloptic's senior director of product marketing. "Carriers see that PON makes sense from an operating expenditure perspective. It's not a whiz-bang technology, but it's consistent with the market today. It makes sense in the restrictive capex environment."

Alloptic claims to be in field trials with "a few" unnamed carriers. "We are also in discussions with quite a few service providers," says Atterbury [emphasis added].

Other vendors agree that FTTH is a market on the grow. "The RBOCs aren't wedded to FSAN," says Emmanuel Vella, chief marketing officer at Wave7 Optics. "They want a practical approach that's cost effective." He says there's been lots of "disinformation" about PONs in general that's now being dispelled.

"This is a growing market," says Joe Dooley, director of product management at Optical Solutions. "There is a lot of new activity, even from the FCC. There's also a move to push telecom access costs onto the shoulders of subscribers." PONs help do that, he says, by bringing faster ROI and faster revenue generation to carriers than do alternatives like DSL.

Analysts also are climbing aboard the FTTH bandwagon. CIBC World Markets, for instance, has revised its forecasts up. "We [previously] underestimated the independent and municipal market for FTTH," write analysts Alan Bezoza and colleagues in their latest report on the market. The group now sees revenues from U.S. PON gear growing in triple digits for the next three years, and over 80 percent per year after that:

Even if RBOCs are willing to listen, however, they continue to move slowly toward adoption of new technologies. In the meantime, the PON vendors say they're focused on other kinds of carriers, including independent providers looking to compete in the cable-based services market. And they say new products such as Alloptic's are clear signs that the market is taking firm steps forward.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
The_Holy_Grail 12/4/2012 | 7:30:27 PM
re: Alloptic Pushes PON Scheme I'm not an employee of AllOptic.

If there is one technology well proven, its ethernet. I would think that a natural extension of the technology into the home would be welcomed by millions of users. Last time I checked, a NIC I/F card was around $19 whopping dollars. This sounds much more affordable to me than some homegrown solution.

One must put it into perspective regarding the need for bandwidth. I gig sounds a little high for the home user. However, if the line is being dropped into a multi-tenant unit (MTU), then this should be sufficient (at least for the near term).

As for the power budget, I'm sure it will suffice to get much greater reach than the current copper/DSL solution. Thus, the potential to reaach more users.

Also, AllOptic should be commended for getting a product up and running, rather than the hype many startups promise.

Hap 12/4/2012 | 7:30:26 PM
re: Alloptic Pushes PON Scheme you mentioned in your post
> I gig sounds a little high for the home user
You have to remember that that 1Gig will be divided up into 32 users on the PON ( for residential applications). Then it will be over subscribed again in the OLT sitting in the CO. So in actuality, you still have plenty of bandwidth, but like in in cable modem business it depends on how many people are on line. This is assuming everybody has the same class of service.
opticguy 12/4/2012 | 7:30:25 PM
re: Alloptic Pushes PON Scheme If the cost and benefits of Alloptic/Salira of using Ethernet/IP-based PON as the transport mechanism is obvious, what will be the fate of
more expensive, ATM-based vendor like Terawave
and others ??
doco 12/4/2012 | 7:30:22 PM
re: Alloptic Pushes PON Scheme
I don't believe that the costs of using Ethernet instead of ATM framing is that much cheaper. The biggest costs in these systems are the optics. What framing format is used is of minor importance. Yes, you can buy Ethernet network cards for $10, but you can't buy optics that reach the FTTH distances for anywhere near that cost.

Electronics that do the framing are driven primarily by volume and Moores law. This means that the difference between Ethernet and ATM is based more on how many units are sold than on the root technology.

Now - if you take it beyond ATM framing and go for "full ATM" system with ABR, VBR, SVCs, etc. etc. etc. you have a lot of silicon and a lot of software that you have to throw at it and that will add cost. But then again by the time you add the additional stuff to support all the QOS things needed to do telephony and video over IP over Ethernet you have the same issues.
tet109 12/4/2012 | 7:30:21 PM
re: Alloptic Pushes PON Scheme Protocol only important to the custmoer and what their core network is. Cost in PON system between ATM and Ethernet not to different. Most PON switch is not full core switch so less features not as much cost. I work for large cable company an evaluate many optic product PON, Sonet, DWDM. I have spent time to look at PON vendor and APON and EPON not much different cost. Many PON vendor need to get product working still. To many press release with no working product.

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