Cable Tech

Ikanos Integrates DSL Chips

On the same day that Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) boasts of its DSL (digital subscriber line) market share (see Alcatel Adds to DSL Dominance), startup Ikanos Communications Inc. says it's working on a new product that could help Alcatel's competitors get the upper hand.

Ikanos has decided that the time is right to integrate ADSL (asymmetric DSL) and VDSL (very high-speed DSL) chipsets. Its previous product for the central office, SmartLeap 8100, supports both VDSL and EFM (Ethernet in the First Mile). SmartLeap 8800, which was announced today, is a programmable chipset that adds ADSL to the mix.

Alcatel's dominance hinges on two flavors of DSL -- ADSL and SDSL (symmetric DSL) -- and its leadership in these markets is due largely to the fact that it orginally developed its own chipsets. A couple of months ago, Alcatel sold its chipset business to STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM), which became its preferred supplier (see STM, Alcatel Team on DSL).

Ikanos claims to be one of the leaders in the market for EFM and VDSL chipsets and has announced major customers all over the world, including Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. and NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY) in Japan; Hyundai Networks Inc. in Korea; Zyxel Communications Co. in Taiwan; VDSL Systems Oy in Finland; and Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) and Turin Networks Inc. in the U.S.

Other vendors, such as Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and Infineon Technologies AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX), offer a different chipset for each technology type.

The products from other chip makers have different upsides. Infineon, for example, offers a chipset that integrates ADSL and voice capabilities, eliminating the need for splitters on the network side (see Alcatel Picks Infineon's DSL Chipset). And Broadcom says it is pushing integration at the line-card level, by putting all the memory, processor and interworking functions typically found on ADSL line cards into the chipset.

The Ikanos solution allows carriers to switch services with a software change. Moving toward VDSL, the tradeoff is generally higher speeds versus shorter distances. ADSL delivers up to 6 Mbit/s upstream (from the central office to the user) over distances of several kilometers, while VDSL reaches speeds of 26 Mbit/s over the much shorter distance of 50 meters. To deploy higher-speed services, the broadband access multiplexer is usually deployed from a remote terminal, bringing it closer to the customer, which makes the prospect of a truck roll even less desirable.

Some customers are willing to back Ikanos publicly. "Because the chips are programmable, we can effectively customize our line cards to suit the particular application demands of each carrier customer, and each deployment environment," says Jussi Mononen, CEO at VDSL Systems. "That kind of flexibility is a strong competitive advantage for us."

Mononen points out another advantage. "With no more development effort than it takes to build a single line card, we are able to offer multiple services for multiple applications and multiple worldwide markets," he says. In fact, the Ikanos chipset supports six different standards of DSL and Ethernet (and if you want to know what they are, see the company's Website).

Only time will tell if Ikanos can steal ADSL market share away from the likes of Broadcom and Infineon. The first hurdle is to get the chip into production, which should be early next year.

Ikanos was founded in 1999 by Behrooz Rezvani, who previously established Advanced Fibre Communications Inc. (AFC)'s (Nasdaq: AFCI) Fremont Design Center, where he managed the development of VDSL and ADSL-lite line cards. He is also editor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standard for Ethernet in the First Mile. Ikanos has raised $52 million to date (see Ikanos Rakes In $35M).

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading
TooTall 12/4/2012 | 9:27:04 PM
re: Ikanos Integrates DSL Chips I believe Ikanos feels the need to stretch facts beyond what they should be due to their very late entry into the VDSL market and fact that they are a start up. Ikanos seems to match the start up mentality of exaggerated claims from a few years ago.
As to Operators deploying a dual mode port... many have gone on public record as not interested in this as adds cost and is not so flexible as made out. Typical deployments would be one or the other port type, not such a mix as to warrant a dual mode port deployment. I believe the CAPEX and OPEX related to such a design would make it uncompetitive versus VDSL technology being deployed already by the likes of Korea Telecom and others, but I leave this to Operators to comment on.
BobbyMax 12/4/2012 | 9:27:10 PM
re: Ikanos Integrates DSL Chips Ikanos appeared of nowhere -- simply out of blue. It is not clear who is on the management team. Why such a late announcement? There are only marginal advantages. if any, to integrating ADSL and VDSL technologies.
TooTall 12/4/2012 | 9:27:16 PM
re: Ikanos Integrates DSL Chips The data can be summarized as a track record of exaggerated claims made in Press Releases that go beyond the usual marketing claims one expects in PRs. I believe the industry could use more reality and less fiction, especially in light of the burst technology bubble. I would expect LR would validate statements made to them before publishing, that was the main point intended.
juryforeman 12/4/2012 | 9:27:20 PM
re: Ikanos Integrates DSL Chips TooTall

What data do you have to support the claim that Ikanos is "a vendor already suspect as to their product claims"? Inquiring minds want to know!
dietaryfiber 12/4/2012 | 9:27:29 PM
re: Ikanos Integrates DSL Chips
Well, on top of that it doesn't matter very much (at least domestically). The RBOCs have stated at the EFM meetings that unless there are changes that they will not be deploying EFM.

Also, the value of this multi-function is minimal compared to reduced cost of any given version. On top of that, any implementation (apparently not yet available) must meet Rate/Reach standards if it is going to be deployable (read TR-48 compliant).

dietary fiber
TooTall 12/4/2012 | 9:27:31 PM
re: Ikanos Integrates DSL Chips It is highly unfortunate that Light Reading would take statements from a vendor already suspect as to their product claims and report them as fact without proper verification. The claim that the Ikanos product "supports both VDSL and EFM" is worse than inaccurate as Ikanos knows full well they do not meet any part of the EFM standard that has yet to select a line code. If the line code selected is QAM, then what of this claim?
Further, the statement that Ikanos' Rezvani is the "editor of the" IEEE's EFM standard is another factual mistake on Light Reading's part. He is one editor amongst several editors.
I would recommend that facts presented to LR by Ikanos be verified by an outside source in the future before being posted as fact. Would be good for your reputation.
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