Last Mile Reaches Out
"The last mile area is the only equipment area in optical networking where we see significant growth this year," said panel leader Michael Howard, principal analyst and cofounder of market research firm Infonetics Research Inc. He said this year's worldwide revenue estimates for access CPE reveal a range of access techniques:
The group, including vendors of passive optical networking (PON) and freespace optics, said the opportunities to link business and home users to fiber-based services is just too good to pass up, even for service providers with straitened capex.
"About 80 percent of all end users we target [as potential PON customers] are within 3,000 feet of [telecom fiber]. And 50 percent are within 1,000 feet of fiber," said Jeff Gwynne, cofounder and VP of marketing at Quantum Bridge Communications Inc.
Gwynne says he sees ILECs and PTTs, as well as cable TV operators, looking for ways to extend their fiber economically in order to tap the opportunity to gain new customers for lucrative Internet-based voice, video, and data services. And he says last year's CLECs are giving way to new kinds of municipal integrators that are setting up fiber networks for their cities, often using rights of way from utility company partners.
Keith Shaneman, development manager of access solutions for Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW), said that over the past few months, there's been a 60 to 80 percent decline in the price of splitters and couplers used in PONs, making the solution even more attractive to service providers.
PON isn't the only access game in town. Other last-mile access solutions are also on the rise, panelists said. Heinz Willebrand, CEO of LightPointe Communications Inc., sees today's emphasis on access as a chance to break through carriers' hesitance to try wireless solutions.
"Don't be afraid of free-space optics; we are just another transport [alternative]," he said.
Panelists also said interest in metro Ethernet is high. "Everyone agrees there will a network; the question is how do we get there," said Jos Baart, director of metro access at Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY). Ethernet solutions, even though they use nonstandard, proprietary methods right now in metro networks, are perceived by carriers as the smartest way to spend access dollars, he said, since Ethernet is a proven technology based on affordable equipment.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading