PONs Hit the Big Time

Quantum Bridge Communications Inc. said yesterday that its passive optical networking (PON) gear is being used by AOL Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: AOL) to reach small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in its large Tampa Bay, Fla., cable division (see Time Warner Picks Quantum Bridge).

The fact that Time Warner is using Quantum Bridge's equipment is good news for the startup, which has had its share of disappointments in the past year -- notably, having to pull its planned IPO and lay off staff (see Quantum Bridge Withdraws IPO and Boston Area Startups Slash Jobs).

This is Quantum Bridge's second success in the cable market. Its gear is already widely deployed with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which is probably the most aggressive cable operator in the SMB market (see Cable Networks: A Primer). Comcast is using Quantum Bridge equipment in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, and New Jersey, according to Quantum Bridge.

The cable industry is exploring PON and other approaches as it gets more serious about the commercial marketplace. To date, one of the biggest obstacles to the industry’s efforts has been the costs of reaching the bigger SMBs, which tend to be far away from the residential areas where cable is concentrated. Operators attempting to serve them have generally had to run point-to-point fiber, which is an expensive undertaking.

PON technology cuts costs, according to its supporters. The approach focuses on delivering fiber to a central site near the first customer. Short and relatively inexpensive subsidiary (or "lateral") fibers connect that site to the first and subsequent customers. The absence of active components between the headend and the customer premises, coupled with the ability to share fiber, cuts costs significantly, according to Quantum Bridge.

In the Tampa Bay complex, which serves more than 1 million people, Quantum Bridge has installed equipment in 12 of 72 hubs. The company hopes to have one or more of its QB5000 optical access switches in about half of the company’s hubs by the end of the year, says senior vice president of marketing Jeff Gwynne.

It remains to be seen whether PON will catch on in the cable industry. There are several approaches to this challenge, and a number of startups -- including Narad Networks Inc., Advent Networks Inc., and Jedai Broadband Networks Inc. -- are queuing up for trials with operators.

PON still faces hurdles. This type of isolated trial activity will continue for the near future, says Michael Paxson, an analyst for In-Stat/MDR. He doesn’t, however, envision widespread deployments any time soon, because PON is not likely to ever make sense at the residential level, and because cable has never had tremendous success in the business market.

For more information on PON technology, PON equipment manufacturers, and PON contract awards, check out PON: The Dream Is Alive and PONs: Passive Aggression.

— Carl Weinschenk, Senior Editor, Light Reading
Jimi 12/4/2012 | 10:32:21 PM
re: PONs Hit the Big Time Anyone know what ever happened to Luxn? Were they not the leader in PON technology? Or did they finally lay down?
GlassyEyed 12/4/2012 | 10:32:18 PM
re: PONs Hit the Big Time I don't believe LuxN even has a PON module. DWDM, CWDM, SONET, FE, GE but no PON.

QB has been the leader, if there is such a thing. AllOptic has done a few things as well. Paceon has a foothold. Not so sure I have heard of any others that are deployed.
tet109 12/4/2012 | 10:32:17 PM
re: PONs Hit the Big Time Luxn try DWDM on PON first but that was when they just begin. Now Luxn is just DWDM most point point application. Luxn did win a few deal but not have seen them much.

DueDiligence 12/4/2012 | 10:32:16 PM
re: PONs Hit the Big Time I remember hearing about how the press or some analyst mis-categorized them in the PON group in print. That was the early days when press/analyst newbies didn't understand what PON architectures were. I hear LuxN is doing pretty well.

loveduck 12/4/2012 | 10:32:12 PM
re: PONs Hit the Big Time If LuxN able to get additional fund by Aug. or Sept. , they might have to close the door. There is about 40% job cut in the 2001. I hope they will sirvive,butI doubt it. The CEO and CFG don't have a glue of what is there business future.
doco 12/4/2012 | 10:32:09 PM
re: PONs Hit the Big Time > QB has been the leader, if there is such a
> thing. AllOptic has done a few things as well.
> Paceon has a foothold. Not so sure I have
> heard of any others that are deployed.

I don't know if QB is the "leader"....
There are also Optical Solutions - but FTTH, not business. Most of the PON guys are business oriented. Terawave is another PON company. Alcatel has a PON FTTH product - but no known deployments. Marconni was in this area - but never got much traction and killed the product. NEC has a spin-off - eLumniant maybe?
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