Cable Tech

Marconi Launches DSL Killer

ATLANTA, GA: Marconi PLC http://www.marconi.com plans to announce a significant development in fiber-to-the-home technology at the Supercomm show today. It will unveil equipment that promises to slash the cost of deploying broadband services over fiber – possibly denting the prospects of DSL (digital subscriber line) technology.

Marconi calls its equipment “Deep Fiber FTH”. With it, a single fiber to a home can support three phone lines, Internet services via a 10BaseT Ethernet connection and multiple cable and satellite TV channels.

The key points are these:

Cost. Bell Atlantic http://www.bellatlantic.com has been testing Marconi’s equipment and studying the economics of deploying it widely according to Mark McDonald, vice president of marketing for Marconi’s access division . The studies indicate that the overall cost of deploying the system is about $1,100 per home. This includes $200 for laying the fiber and all of the equipment needed in the carrier’s network and the home.

”Bell Atlantic tells us that our system is half the cost of any alternative,” says McDonald. Other vendors with existing fiber-to-the-home solutions include Alcatel SA http://www.alcatel.com, Lucent Technologies Inc. http://www.lucent.com and Fujitsu Ltd. http://www.fujitsu.com.

More significantly, the cost of deploying Marconi’s gear is in the same ball park as deploying DSL, according to McDonald. “That’s what Bell Atlantic is so excited about, “ he says. For the same investment, it could deliver much higher bandwidth services than are possible over DSL. Laying fiber to homes would also pave the way for future developments.

Flexibility. Marconi’s equipment supports twin wavelengths to each home, one for carrying interactive traffic such as phone connections and Internet access, and the other for carrying one-way TV broadcasts. Each wavelength can be set up individually, as and when customers order services.

This makes for much more efficient use of infrastructure than installing gigabit Ethernet to do the same thing, according to McDonald. With gigabit Ethernet, if one customer wants to have TV and the rest don’t, the carrier is faced with upgrading the whole network to provide it – an uneconomic proposition, he contends. With Marconi’s system, the carrier simply sets up another wavelength to the customer that wants TV, leaving everybody else with what they’re paying for.

It’s worth noting that a handful of vendors are developing gigabit-Ethernet-to-the-home products for the same market. They argue that they can get way below the $1,100 a home quoted by Marconi, and that costs will be so low that the issue of using equipment efficiently won’t be of paramount importance.

Ease of Use . Marconi carries analog as well as digital signals on its wavelengths, which means that equipment installed in homes allows customers to plug in their existing equipment – phones, PCs, TV sets. They’re not forced to buy new gear, as they might be with alternative solutions. Offering high bandwidth Internet access at the same time as analog phone connections gives customers the option of using voice-over-IP.

Low Risk. Marconi’s Deep Fiber FTH is an extension of its existing fiber-to-the-curb technology, which is already in widely deployed. 2 million lines have been installed to date, according to McDonald. The system uses passive optical network (PON) technology to make more efficient use of fiber in access networks (see PONs: Passive Aggression).

As noted, Bell Atlantic has been testing Marconi’s equipment and plans to start trials this summer, according to McDonald. General availability is scheduled for the end of the year.

By Peter Heywood, International Editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com
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