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Cable Tech

Moto Gets a Piece of Verizon FTTP

Settling one of the FTTP world's favorite rumor topics, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has picked its second supplier of fiber access gear today: It's Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). (See Motorola Wins Verizon FTTP Deal.)

The deal also resulted in a somewhat quiet product debut for the Motorola AXS2200 Optical Line Terminal, which may offer a clue as to where Verizon is heading with its fiber plans.

The carrier awarded Motorola a five-year contract to supply all manner of equipment associated with its fiber to the premises (FTTP) rollout. That Verizon was seeking a second supplier wasn't a big surprise (see Rough Week for AFC and AFC Fesses Up, Defenders Pipe Up). But the announcement did include the first mention of the new Motorola product.

The new AXS2200 is actually a next-generation version of the QB5000 Optical Access Switch that Motorola got when it acquired Quantum Bridge Communications (see Motorola Completes QB Acquisition). One of the more interesting notes about the new device is that it is capable of supporting BPON and GPON connections simultaneously on a single chassis, according to Tony Zona, general manager of Motorola's FTTP business (and founder of Quantum Bridge).

That's a big deal for Verizon, which deploys a BPON solution now from Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA), FiberDirect, but may be looking to eventually move to a platform that supports download speeds higher than the 622 Mbit/s that BPON connections offer. GPON connections typically allow speeds up to 2.5 Gbit/s downstream and up to 1.25 Gbit/s upstream -- speeds much more attractive to carriers planning to offer HDTV.

Zona says the new AXS2200 will be on display at the Supercomm show in June. He says the new box "is not ATM-centric," but it does support TDM and Gigabit Ethernet, and has a fully integrated VOIP solution.

The box includes some of the technology Motorola acquired when it bought Next-Level Communications (see Motorola Buys Rest of Next Level). "This product also represents a convergence path from fiber-to-the-premises and fiber-to-the-node solutions," Zona says.

The Motorola-Verizon contract, the terms of which weren't disclosed, also includes Motorola's residential and business Optical Network Terminals, and its "video-optimized" Erbium Doped-Fiber Amplifiers (EDFAs).

Of course, now that Verizon has two choices when it comes to fiber access equipment, the pressure is on for each vendor to stay on time and stay competitive.

Motorola, for its part, has a more comprehensive role in Verizon's FTTP rollout, as the vendor has already been awarded a multiyear contract to provide digital video network infrastructure and customer premises equipment (see Verizon Says, 'Hello, Moto').

That could be telling, given that Tellabs' CEO Krish Prabhu this morning said on Tellabs' earnings call the RBOC modus operandi isn't usually to split its business down the middle (see Tellabs Outperforms in Q1).

When asked whether Tellabs' account will continue to grow in light of Motorola's contract award, Prabhu replied: "You should ask the customer, but from my experience the RBOCs are motivated to work with one supplier for 90 percent [of their needs], and we have the inside track on that business… But I feel uncomfortable speaking on behalf of our customers."

"Verizon has been clear from the beginning about having more than one supplier, and… results will determine how the market gets divided," Motorola's Zona says.

Still, sources close to Tellabs say the abrupt introduction of a totally new Motorola fiber access platform raises the question of how fully baked the product really is.

Motorola, however, says the technology inside the AXS2200 is tried and true. Zona says the product's "software base is exactly the same" as the QB5000, and he says "all the functionality of the QB5000 was inherited" by the AXS2200, so "it's not brand spanking new."

The company won't say what networks have actually put the box through trials.

But the upshot is that the AXS2200's alleged capabilities signal that Verizon isn't going to stop at a BPON-fueled triple-play offering. "The triple-play will soon be a non-differentiated service," says Floyd Wagner, product marketing manager for Motorola's FTTP group. "What do you do then?"

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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