Stimulus Winners Get Active With Ethernet
Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), which has landed 25 broadband stimulus projects thus far, is seeing about half of those go toward active Ethernet, and seeing most use some active Ethernet for business customers, according to Geoff Burke, senior director of corporate marketing. (See Calix Wins in North Dakota and Calix Wins Tennesee Stimulus Deal.)
Other vendors, including Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) and Clearfield Inc. (Nasdaq: CLFD), also report growing interest in active Ethernet as an FTTH solution. (See GTC Taps Clearfield for Missouri Project.)
The appeal, says Nancy White, president and CEO of North Central Telephone Cooperative, a rural Tennessee company that just chose the Calix E7 Ethernet Service Access Platform for its $49 million fiber project, is the ability to future-proof a network, knowing that the stimulus money is a one-time opportunity.
NCTC serves an area that is extremely rural, located not just 40 miles from the nearest interstate, but 30 miles from the nearest four-lane road. With 20,000 customers spread out over five counties in north central Tennessee and southern Kentucky, NCTC will install 1,000 miles of fiber optic cable under the stimulus grant, reaching 15,000 of those customers and 1,000 businesses or anchor institutions.
"We thought, if we are going to run fiber past them, why not run fiber to them as well," White says. "We offer a video service and I have a security company as well. GPON would work, but you could very quickly exceed the bandwidth. With active Ethernet, we are future-proofing our network."
While active Ethernet requires a home-run fiber connection from the CO to each individual subscriber -- versus passive networks that split the capacity of one fiber to as many 32 homes -- that home-run is accomplished using fiber from the CO to a remote terminal, and from there to the ONT on the side of a home.
"We are basically instantiating a network that is non-blocking throughout," Burke says. "We are putting in an infrastructure that basically runs into no roadblocks from premises to CO. You only have to change out the electronics and you still have wave guide in place, if at some point you want to upgrade."
Some stimulus award winners who have already built a cable headend for video are choosing GPON as their FTTH strategy so they can more easily overlay an RF video signal on the fiber, he says.
Distance is also a factor -- active Ethernet signals can go much farther and so are more suited in some very rural areas.
NCTC's primary goal is economic development for its region, which has lost most of its factory base, and has also seen basic services, such as medical care decline, White says. Many of its aging residents must travel 40 miles to see a doctor and, until NCTC installed a fiber connection to the local hospital in Lafayette, Tenn., it had been using a 1.5Mbit/s DSL link to send X-rays to a technician to be read, sometimes days later.
With active Ethernet connections, NCTC will be able to give anchor institutions such as the hospital, the local schools and libraries much faster connections as well.
Many of the stimulus award winners who have chosen GPON for residential service are using active Ethernet for the businesses they pass, according to Burke, who doesn't miss a chance to tout the Calix E7's ability to support both.
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading