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Quantum Bridge Aims for IPO

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
12/20/2000

Quantum Bridge Communications Inc. has filed with the SEC to go public (see Quantum Bridge Goes for IPO). The move's a bold one for the three-year-old company, and analysts are offering contradictory prognoses for its prospects.

Some say the odds are against Quantum Bridge. For one thing, the vendor specializes in passive optical networks (PONs), an access technology that's not yet deployed by many carriers -- despite several high-profile trials worldwide. (See PONs: Passive Aggression for an explanation of PON technology.)

Another downside: The atmosphere of the public markets couldn't be less amenable to a company whose products aren't part of the optical networking mainstream. "Any service provider, any equipment vendor who tries to go public now is taking a big risk," says one securities analyst, who asked not to be named. "It's not a good time."

Still, some analysts think Quantum Bridge could win out, providing PONs catch on as a broadband access option and providing that Quantum Bridge can maintain a market presence during the metamorphoses that are likely to precede PON acceptance.

"PONs are a very viable access technology for small businesses," says Alan Bezoza, broadband access analyst with CIBC World Markets. He sees PONs as a cheap and practical alternative to more expensive access solutions, such as leased lines. Later on, he thinks PONs also will present advantages to residential customers.

In its favor, Quantum Bridge is among a tiny group of PON vendors that's actually shipping products. The vendor's ATM-based QB5000 PON allows carriers to offer customers shared access to 622-Mbit/s connectivity via Ethernet or leased-line connections. Users have links of up to 155 Mbit/s back upstream (622-Mbit/s upstream links are reportedly in staging). The vendor also boasts management and provisioning software that gives carriers software control over the services and users in a PON.

Quantum Bridge has two officially announced customers: In August, it announced a deal with Advanced TelCom Group Inc. (see Quantum Bridge's Big Deal). And it's signed for an undisclosed sum with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK).

While the vendor is clear that neither of these customers has committed to a long-term rollout of PONs based on Quantum Bridge's gear, the agreements put the vendor slightly ahead of its competitors, including Terawave Communications, which to date has not announced any contracts. Quantum Bridge also has told analysts that it's got deals pending with three other customers.

Quantum Bridge showed revenues of $654,000 for the nine months ended September 30, 2000. Net loss during the period was $29.4 million.

-- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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