Cable Tech

Opvista Switches on Cable

Before it's old enough to make a run at the telecommunications market, Opvista Inc., a quiet, Irvine, Calif., startup, has already changed directions. The metro dense WDM equipment maker, which has raised $28 million, recently changed CEOs and is now joining the gaggle of companies selling optical networking gear to cable multiple system operators (MSOs).

Opvista's MetroVista Ultra-Dense WDM technology increases channel capacity in a fiber by eight-fold for distances of up to 1,000 kilometers with no regeneration nor dispersion compensation necessary, according to the company. The company sells its MetroVista 200 as a larger metro transport box and the MetroVista 100 for use at customer premises.

"The architecture of the products, although designed primarily for the metro telephone market, has an application in the emerging video-on-demand part of cable television," says Opvista CEO Gary Trimm.

Opvista just hired Trimm last week to relieve Winston I. Way, the company's chief technology officer who had been holding the CEO post on an interim basis. For the past four years, Trimm has been a consultant in the cable business. Prior to that he was president and CEO of Compression Labs Inc. of San Jose, Calif. Previously, Trimm had been president of the subscriber systems and the North American divisions of Scientific-Atlanta Inc. (NYSE: SFA), where he held senior management positions since 1988.

Trimm says Opvista has raised $28 million from Sevin Rosen Funds, U.S. Trust, and Incubic LLC. Its board members include Milton Chang, Sevin Rosen's Steve Domenik, and Gwong Lee, the senior director of sales strategy and planning for Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) worldwide technical operations group (see Chang's Investment Shop). The company was first funded by outside investors in November 2000, according to Venture Economics.

Opvista sees its opportunity in helping cable operators add capacity to the large rings that connect their systems' main head ends in a given city with all of the local head ends throughout the area. Those rings need more capacity as cable companies begin to offer telephony, video conferencing, and other business services that require loads more two-way data exchange between users and the network (see Openwave Adds Brass and Cable Networks: A Primer).

Several other companies already have laid claim to this market, including Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Internet Photonics Inc., and Sorrento Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: FIBR), all of which are better staffed, better funded, and have been operating longer than Opvista.

But the cable market is, at least, less turbulent overall than the business of selling to telecom service providers. And, of course, Opvista isn't the first company to make that observation. Companies such as Convergent Networks Inc., Ellacoya Networks Inc., and Optinel Systems have all cruised from the telecom space to the cable market recently (see Startup Renaissance in Cable Market and Is Ellacoya on the Comeback Trail?).

The change may do Opvista some good. The company lost a contract with NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY) in mid 2002, a deal that could have netted the company more investment dollars, according to a report in the Orange County Business Journal.

It has also resized its staff as it's changed markets. Trimm says the company peaked at around 40 employees but has cut back to 23.

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading
BobbyMax 12/5/2012 | 12:48:09 AM
re: Opvista Switches on Cable With wireline business so overcrowdwd, it is natural for some vendors to move to cable. When AT&T acquired TCI, it desired to provide voice and various multimedia services over cable. But this never materialized. It remains to be seen how the cable based market develops. There will be natural temptation on the part of cable equipment and service providers to provide the same as wireline provides.
lr_fan 12/5/2012 | 12:46:58 AM
re: Opvista Switches on Cable So what is IPI and Optinel doing?
pigglywiggly 12/5/2012 | 12:45:48 AM
re: Opvista Switches on Cable Bobbymax wrote:
"When AT&T acquired TCI, it desired to provide voice and various multimedia services over cable. But this never materialized."

AT&T Broadband had nearly 1.5 million voice subscribers year-end 2002. Not huge, but still at least 10% of their total subscriber base. Comcast will stall any significant increase on that as they focus on core business for the short term. The MSOs are well positioned to grow their voice market if they choose to do, particularly as they can lump it in with video and data services that incumbents would be hard pressed to deliver with their existing infrastructures.
lr_fan 12/5/2012 | 12:44:17 AM
re: Opvista Switches on Cable About AT&T plan never materializing

I think it is terrible shame. It was a great, great idea. AT&T did show great success in rolling out telephony, but for some reason, the stock market never bought-in, and the market is who votes.

It is also a terrible shame that Comcast will go back on their word to carry on with these deployments. Phone requires a large upfront investment which does pay-off. It just pays-off a little later than the traditional cable co is used to.

If you look at Cox, telephone is the highest returning service today. When will the rest of em get it?
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