Actelis Heats Up the Copper

While much of the industry complains about the ongoing fiber glut in long-haul networks, the bulk of new activity appears to be happening in the last mile, where means of deploying Ethernet over regular copper phone lines are being developed.

The latest bend in the copper comes from Actelis Networks, which yesterday announced not only the availability of its MetaLight 1500 hardware, which it claims enables the delivery of fiber-quality services over copper, but also deployment to its first customer -- Cincinnati Bell, a Broadwing Inc. (NYSE: BRW) subsidiary (see Actelis Intros MetaLight)

Actelis says carriers can use its MetaLight 1500 gear, based on its own MetaLoop technology, to optimize existing copper telephone wires to deliver bandwidth of up to 50 Mbit/s. The company claims the technology allows for the reliable delivery of services like voice, video, and data traffic.

The technology requires a box at the local carrier’s central office and one at the customer premises, can be deployed in a matter of hours, and can carry services up to 18,000 feet. Each system uses between four and 20 copper pairs, depending on how much bandwidth the customer needs. The only labor required for deploying the technology can be carried out by your traditional telephone technician, the company says.

“Everywhere where there are copper drops, customers could upgrade to 10-Mbit/s to 45-Mbit/s Ethernet,” boasts Actelis president and CEO Tuvia Barlev. “Whatever you can do with fiber, you can do with this.”

Actelis’ first customer, Cincinnati Bell, says in a case study that it chose the copper-based solution because of its lower cost, reach, scalability, and fiber-like performance. The service provider has deployed the MetaLight 1500 to the Cincinnati County Day School, which was looking for a cost-effective way to obtain a 10-Mbit/s connection to the Internet, since its T1 connection was no longer sufficient.

“We were looking for a solution that could scale beyond 10 Mbit/s and deliver high-quality broadband services over our existing copper plant,” Dennis Hinkel, Cincinnati Bell’s senior vice president of network operations said in the study.

The deployment may not be huge, but with only 10 percent of U.S. businesses currently connected to fiber, any development in Ethernet over copper is significant, observers say. “The concern is that it’s limited to one specific application… but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.” said Ron Westfall, an analyst with Current Analysis, adding that it helps to differentiate Actelis from all of the other companies out there trying to find access solutions.

Competing in this area won’t be easy, however. Incumbent players such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), which are touting their own access solutions, are more likely to receive recognition from carriers. In addition, the company will have to run against other startups with their own Ethernet-over-copper solutions, such as Hatteras Networks.

While having a customer is a good first step, deployment to one school will hardly carry the company through. "It’s certainly not a slam-dunk for them," says IDC analyst Sterling Perrin. "Incumbents are slow adapters of anything new. And it’s the incumbents that are calling the shots these days, at least in the U.S."

So is there a chance the incumbents will commit? The RBOCs haven’t announced any deployment of this kind of copper technology, but they are all probably looking into it. "We are constantly evaluating new technologies," said a spokesperson for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). "Particularly on the last mile."

Actelis claims that five or six major carrier labs in the U.S. and internationally are currently beta-testing the technology.

But while they may be looking, observers say deployment with incumbents is a long way off. The main concern for carriers, they say, is whether the technology will prove reliable. Carriers would worry, they say, that after offering customers services, they would discover that there aren’t enough copper pairs available, that the customer location is a little too far away, or that the service delivery just doesn’t measure up.

Reliability isn’t a problem, Actelis says. Any existing copper infrastructure will do, the company says, since the proprietary noise-cancellation algorithms and error-correction techniques cancel out many of the disturbances that would otherwise jeopardize the reliability of the service.

David Passmore, the research director of the Burton Group, says that for the next year or so, there should be a lot of market opportunity for companies such as Actelis. “There is a void that is being filled by this,” he says. However, he warns, once Ethernet to the last mile becomes a standard, the company will probably lose its edge.

The cost of deploying the technology varies with the configuration, Actelis says. Depending on the services, it can cost between $15,000 and $30,000.

— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Light Reading
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photonsu 12/4/2012 | 9:39:23 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper That's the ticket alright! Rather than ask my phone company to pull in fiber, I'll just ask for another 18 wire pairs.

Must be a slow news day!!!
WhiteKnight 12/4/2012 | 9:39:20 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper I agree 100% that is ludicrous. How can this be justified, when there are a limited number of copper pairs delivered to the SAI, and in most cases only four pairs alloted for each home.
whyiswhy 12/4/2012 | 9:39:18 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper http://www.lightreading.com/bo...

Perspective: SBC trenches up my sidewalk and street three times a year to re-re-re-repair underground splices so they can get decent pairs to support plain vanilla DSL. I think the branch cable for our entire block has about 100 (or fewer) pairs in it. Talk about your OpEx!

VDSL will be a niche market.

willywilson 12/4/2012 | 9:39:15 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper Paradyne has had Ethernet over copper for years, as did Elastic, the Nortel spinout that Paradyne acquired late last year. The idea is so compelling that Paradyne paid $0 for Elastic net of cash.
lightpimp 12/4/2012 | 9:39:14 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper areas where the telco doesn't want to serv up a loop carrier or can justify the cost of trenching fiber to a remote. Gonna be a hard sell though considering how cheap fiber access is these days. 50MB pairs up with a DS3 so not much to play with here.
TIMCO 12/4/2012 | 9:39:09 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper Right now, I pay $50/mo for a cable modem that provides a shared data rate of ~1Mbps. I'd love to get 2.5mbps (or 5mbps on 2 pairs) unshared into my home!

That's about x10 (when my neighbors are using the internet) improvement and no one has to dig up my yard.

Am I missing something?

TIMCO 12/4/2012 | 9:39:09 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper Right now, I pay $50/mo for a cable modem that provides a shared data rate of ~1Mbps. I'd love to get 2.5mbps (or 5mbps on 2 pairs) unshared into my home!

That's about x10 (when my neighbors are using the internet) improvement and no one has to dig up my yard.

Am I missing something?

willywilson 12/4/2012 | 9:39:07 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper Right now, I pay $50/mo for a cable modem that provides a shared data rate of ~1Mbps. I'd love to get 2.5mbps (or 5mbps on 2 pairs) unshared into my home!

That's about x10 (when my neighbors are using the internet) improvement and no one has to dig up my yard.

Am I missing something?


Here's what you're missing:

1. As usual, the press release used the highest possible numbers. Factor in bridge taps, loading coils, mixed-gauge wire and assorted other nasties, and those speeds will drop.

2. The Internet is essentially a wide-band network, i.e., 200 Kb/s to 500 Kb/s most of the time. A 2.5 Mb/s access link, which won't be that fast anyway, is superfluous. Might be good for other stuff like VOD and video conferencing, but that would need a bunch of other infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Gary Winnicks of the world took all the money and it's not coming back.

3. The underlying technology, ethernet over copper, already exists. Nortel spun off Elastic Networks, and Elastic has already introduced 10 Mb/s (top speed) ethernet over twisted pair. The Actelis product is nothing new; the distinguishing feature is they have a p.r. firm that can place stories in those trade publications that still exist.

So don't hold your breath. You'll only turn blue.

whyiswhy 12/4/2012 | 9:39:00 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper "and no one has to dig up my yard."

Yea, right! You certainly did not read my earlier post, nor did you understand Willy's...digging it up and/or retrenching is how they get rid of those problems.

Look, cable MSOs can offer all the bandwidth you want. But they don't. Why? Because they cannot make good money at it. Why? Becasue even for cable, which only has to make minor upgrades, using relatively low cost equipment, needs no trenching, can do it incrementally, etc...cannot show a good payback. Why? Because the adoption rates are too low. Why? Because the average Joe does not want broadband to his/her computer. Joe wants his cable TV, and is more than happy with 1.5Mbps, shared.
fiber_to_toilet 12/4/2012 | 9:38:59 PM
re: Actelis Heats Up the Copper AMEN!
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