PONs Push On
Once the wallflowers of optical networking, passive optical networking (PON) vendors can't stay out of the limelight these days. In less than a week, two companies have taken more than $30 million in third-round funding; a third has announced new products, despite speculation that it would not launch a PON; and another, given up for lost, has scored a major contract award.
All this follows news of new market opportunities in the Asia/Pacific region, which seem to defy earlier predictions that PON is nowheresville.
Here's the rundown from the past few days:
- Terawave Communications announced on September 4 that its PONs will be used by cable broadband provider Cox Communications Inc. (NYSE: COX) (see Cox Pix Terawave for PON). Terawave, one of the first vendors of business-oriented PONs, has kept its activities fairly secret for years, leading some industry watchers to give up on it. But it keeps springing from the coffin with surprising vigor: In April, for instance, it scored $14 million in late-stage funding, though it had to be chased down to admit it (see Terawave's Hushed-Up Funding).
- Optical Solutions Inc. announced $15 million in a third round of funding on September 3 (see Optical Solutions Raises $15M). The money will be used to expand the vendor's market niche, specifically rural and alternative broadband suppliers in North America, according to a prepared company statement. The round included a new investor, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), though mum's the word on details. News of the funding follows Optical Solutions' release of a new high-speed gigabit PON (see Fiber Surprise in FCC Rules? and Optical Solutions Debuts FTTP System).
- Zhone Technologies Inc. today released a suite of products that equip its Multi-Access Line Concentrator (MALC) with PON capabilities. The gear includes a PON optical line terminal (OLT) card for the MALC and a PON Residential Gateway that works with the OLT but resides at the customer premises or inside the neighborhood box. The new MALC module also works with the FiberJack CPE previously released by Zhone.
Zhone's new PON gear did not come from its purchase of NEC eLuminant in February 2003 (see Zhone Gets Eluminated). While that vendor had PON gear along with other access equipment, the PONs were left behind when Zhone bought the subsidiary. Zhone spokesman David Markowitz says the eLuminant PON was already "considered a bit dated" and Zhone had its own PON development underway when eLuminant was bought.
Zhone isn't the only vendor seeking to add pep to its access concentrators. Advanced Fibre Communications Inc. (AFC) (Nasdaq: AFCI) also has augmented its access gear with PON capabilities (see AFC Comes Clean on FTTP ).
- Wave7 Optics Inc. announced $15 million to top off $30.5 million total for its third round of funding today (see Wave7 Grabs $15.5M). Wave7's CEO Tom Tighe says the money will go to supporting customers in North America and also in Asia and Europe. Wave7 has scored at least $32 million in previous funding rounds (see Wave7 Optics Scores $23M and Wave7 Announces $9M 1st Round).
Wave7 competes directly with Optical Solutions in the North American residential PON market. It also has OEM agreements with Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA) in Japan and Korea, and with Teleste Corp. in Europe. Its Last Mile Link packs a PON with optional active components that can extend its reach to 80 km. There's also an ASIC that provides two-way video on residential lines -- a boon for video-on-demand applications.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading