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Optical/IP

AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course

Sources say AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is seriously considering VDSL-based technology for future Ethernet-over-copper deployments, a decision that could shift the balance among copper Ethernet startups.

What's interesting about the VDSL choice is that only one vendor is supplying that technology: Aktino Inc. Whether the startup has enough time to exploit that uniqueness is uncertain, though.

Other Ethernet-over-copper vendors support 2Base-TL, which is spelled out in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.3ah standard for Ethernet in the First Mile and runs on the G.shdsl version of DSL. (See Aktino Dives Into Copper.)

Those vendors include two companies with ties to AT&T: Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN), which won an Ethernet-over-copper request for proposals (RFP) in January, and Hatteras Networks Inc. , which last year scored a deal with BellSouth, now part of AT&T. (See Adtran Scores at AT&T and Copper Ethernet Snares an RBOC.)

Neither Adtran nor Hatteras seems in any immediate danger from VDSL, though. Michael Howard, principal analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. , notes that, while AT&T is believed to have VDSL-based Ethernet over copper in its future roadmap, "that's going to take a while to get to standards," with the first version not expected until the second quarter of 2008.

Aktino and AT&T declined to comment for this story.

Why does any of this matter, since Adtran presumably won the job? Because AT&T's choice could influence other carriers, changing the outlook for copper Ethernet. "If AT&T says they're going in some direction, I'm sure other people will follow," Howard says.

And the RFP that Adtran won reads as if the carrier has seen and liked Aktino's technology.

According to one source, who requested anonymity, the RFP says AT&T is interested in VDSL using discrete multitone (DMT) modulation and, to mitigate interference, multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) techniques. That happens to be the technology Aktino chose to pursue when it joined the Ethernet-over-copper field in 2003, well behind rivals such as Actelis Networks Inc. and Hatteras.

Aktino might not be alone in the VDSL camp for long, though. Actelis has VDSL-based gear in its plans, says Craig Easley, the company's associate vice president of marketing. "That's everybody's long-term direction," he says.

"There's time for all the players in this field. You can be sure Hatteras is going to protect its position as a leader in this field," says Chris Cook, Hatteras senior vice president of sales.

It's also worth noting that AT&T is a big place, and one RFP doesn't necessarily set the direction for the entire company. One source requesting anonymity notes the carrier has two outstanding RFPs for Ethernet over copper, one of which deals with long-reach and international cases that are well beyond the scope of the Adtran RFP, which covered U.S. territory only.

In any event, Aktino's position has gotten it noticed, as our first industry source says the startup has held recent meetings with major OEMs including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which doesn't have any Ethernet-over-copper gear.

Cisco wouldn't comment on that, but the company says it's generally not interested in an Ethernet-over-copper acquisition. "Right now, we're sticking with our partnership strategy," says Mike Capuano, a Cisco senior marketing manager.

Hatteras is a part of that strategy. For about a year, Hatteras has been selling gear alongside a Cisco group that sells to non-ILEC clients such as Bay Area service provider Telekenex . It's not a formal partnership; rather, that Cisco unit refers interested customers to Hatteras. (See Telekenex Picks Hatteras.)

While Adtran isn't even confirming the AT&T win, it seems likely the company's Total Access 5000 would be the product line applied to the deal. The box isn't shipping in volume but has been in trials with a dozen customers, about a third of which came through with purchase orders late in 2006, says Kevin Morgan, Adtran's director of marketing for carrier networks. (See Adtran Touts Total Access.)

Competitors have questioned whether Adtran even has the technology to deliver Ethernet over copper, especially considering its Website doesn't list such modules for the Total Access 5000. But Morgan says Adtran's got the goods, including technologies like bonded copper, which combines copper Ethernet lines to boost bandwidth.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:12:40 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course Funny you should put it that way, because Aktino is always on my case about forgetting them whenever I mention Actelis and Hatteras. (A tip of the cap here to ANDA, whose name didn't get into the story.)

> AktinoG«÷s efforts are nothing but a short lived science experiment that will be shortly available from all the key modem suppliers.

I'm willing to believe that. Aktino would tell you about the "secret sauce" they add to the system, but you may be absolutely right.

Their best hope, assuming AT&T really does like their technology, is to find a big partner or buyer ASAP.
billy_fold 12/5/2012 | 3:12:40 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course Craig,

What is it with your love affair with Aktino?

The bottom line is that at&t has two incumbent vendors for EoCu and neither of them is Aktino. at&t also clearly sees that the MIMO capability is being incorporated by the chip vendors as they move towards the symmetric VDSL2 standard in mid G«÷08. AktinoG«÷s efforts are nothing but a short lived science experiment that will be shortly available from all the key modem suppliers.

-billy

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:12:39 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course > I am sure that Aktino calls you to complain about your coverage. Why?..they are "working you" my friend.

Well, sure. Every single company that calls is "working" us. And those that don't get mentioned call the loudest (figuratively).
firstmile 12/5/2012 | 3:12:39 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course Hi Craig,
I am sure that Aktino calls you to complain about your coverage. Why?..they are "working you" my friend. From my perspective they do an outstanding job at "creating" news. Do they really have ANY customers? ANY revenue? ANY partners? and they do not appear to have made to short list at AT&T. So where is the news about Aktino?
Funny and
...first
American Indian 12/5/2012 | 3:12:36 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course
... copper is such a stupid bet. FIOS is already dropping 100 meg with plenty of upside.

Why invest into a second tier technology on 60 year old copper. Dumb.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:12:35 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course ATT does not want to provide residential broadband. It cheapens their "service" too much. Now that they have monopoly status over much of the nation again, they can sink billions of dollars into a second-rate infrastructure, and become "too big to fail". Users will be stuck with a narrowband pipe again.
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 3:12:30 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course Materialgirl:
"Now that they have monopoly status over much of the nation again..."

I guess someone forgot to tell Time Warner, Comcast, etc. that they are out of the equation...?

Steve.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:12:28 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course Good point, Steve. How about douopoly. Cable will be a thorn in their side. I suspect they will continue to resort to big RNC donations and legal attacks (like the local franchising deal or the repeal of "net neutrality" in two years) to try and contain cable, or profit from third party content.

However, anyone who puts copper in the last mile cannot be interested in providing residential broadband. This part is no mystery.
stephencooke 12/5/2012 | 3:12:27 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course Materialgirl:
"However, anyone who puts copper in the last mile cannot be interested in providing residential broadband. This part is no mystery."

I would suggest that this depends on your definition of "broadband". There is a DSL technology that can deliver 400MB/s over standard twisted pair. Is that fast enough for now? By the way I've patented it.

Steve.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:12:25 PM
re: AT&T Sets Copper Ethernet Course
Stephen,

3 comments.

1 - I assume you mean 400 Mb/s not 400 MB/s(Megabits not MegaBytes).

2 - What "standard twisted pair"? I assume you mean Cat 3 wiring.

3 - Over what reach and with what impairments?

seven
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