Optical/IP Networks

LightPointe Expands Huawei Deal

Free-space optics (FSO) vendor LightPointe Communications Inc. is pegging some of its growth on Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., as the companies announced an expansion of their reseller agreement today.

The companies teamed up last year to serve just the Chinese market (see LightPointe Teams With Huawei). The expanded agreement will carry LightPointe into Huawei's accounts in the Middle East and East Africa, including Iraq, Kenya, and Yemen.

LightPointe first pinPointed the regions for expansion, then called up Huawei as the best partner for the task, says Larry Prior, LightPointe CEO.

"We look at who's there and who has a customer base," Prior says. "We had Corning and Siemens in different agreements, but when it came to Kenya and when it came to Yemen, Huawei's going to own that."

LightPointe also has an agreement with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), but it tends to cover specific Cisco partners and doesn't cross Huawei's territory, Prior says. "With Huawei it's more focused on large PTTs and service providers, so we've been able to avoid conflict."

Even its strongest proponents admit FSO will never take over the world. But the technology seems to be on an upswing. Granted, big spender Terabeam Corp. was acquired for pocket change by YDI Wireless Inc., but other companies claim to be going strong. FSona Communications Corp. recently upgraded its equipment to the 2.5-Gbit/s mark, and LightPointe itself picked up a $17 million funding round. (See Terabeam Merges for Peanuts, fSONA Announces 2.5-Gig FSO , and LightPointe Attracts $17M.)

Much of the activity comes from regions like China, where massive infrastructure build-outs include some spot opportunities for FSO.

The technology is also finding uses in wireless backhaul, which analysts have pegged as the technology's only hope for growing beyond a small niche (see New Life for FSO?). Prior claims LightPointe's Supercomm booth last month saw quite a few visits from companies dabbling in 60GHz transmissions or the new WiMax standard (see WiMax: How Far? How Fast? and New Life for FSO?).

In addition to backhaul, there's a last-mile play for FSO. For customers requesting bandwidth beyond what current broadband wireless standards can deliver, the service provider can try a hybrid model: FSO for data, and radio frequency (RF) for voice, Prior says.

None of these angles will turn FSO into a huge business, says analyst Dave Dunphy of Current Analysis. "You'll see some applications in secondary market areas where there's not as much infrastructure build-out, but the biggest opportunity will probably continue to be with enterprises, shooting across parking lots," he says.

Like most outside observers, Dunphy doesn't see much chance for FSO to catch on with service providers in a big way. "It's a complex operations model and high cost. You've got link-to-link engineering that has to be done," Dunphy says. FSO does become useful in some cases, but overall it's still "the kind of thing that's nice to have once in a while."

Nonetheless, Prior hopes to gain ground with a new wave of small CLECs, having seen a flurry of them visit the Supercomm booth. "We counted 20 by Day 2," he says.

While more than 20 companies were pursuing FSO, including fellow startups fSona and LaserBit Communications Corp., LightPointe's primary competition comes from MRV Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: MRVC) and, to some extent, Canon Inc. "That's pretty much a niche competition. I don't see [Canon] except in Japan or the Northeastern United States," says Prior.

LightPointe claims to be in 50 trials, including several in China. The company employs about 75.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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moose 12/5/2012 | 1:27:36 AM
re: LightPointe Expands Huawei Deal Very quietly, it seems that Lightpointe replaced John Griffin with Lawrence Prior, who used to be CFO. Griffin was CEO for the April press release, but Prior was CEO for the May press release.
pschoon 12/5/2012 | 1:26:57 AM
re: LightPointe Expands Huawei Deal
Installation certified by more FSO mfg's than any other individual in the world (fSona, MRV, Omnilux, LaserBit, Canon, iRLan, LightPointe, Dominion, Crinis) and having deployed over 75 FSO links I have more hands-on experience with FSO than just about anyone you would talk to other than an employee of one of the FSO mfg's themselves (who would have a more biased perspective).

A couple of comments:

FSO should be a huge business currently. If each mfg. had just one partner like my Company in each state, they would all be doing $100 mil. / year each.

You really did FSO a dis-service by relegating it to "Parking lot shots".

Fixed wireless (FSO or RF) become the choice when budget constraints, timing limits, permitting, security considerations, intolerence for latency (VoIP), or duration of need (e.g. temp or DR links) are on the table.

Your "Parking lot (300m) links" are certainly the "no-brainers" (FastE full duplex links are< $4k) but the FSO opportunity is quite a bit different than that, and a bit more complex.

I have found over the past four years that FSO generally becomes the clear optimal choice in the following very specific applications:

1. 10Mbps links up to 4km where security is critical, separate encryption is undesireable

2. 100Mbps links up to about 3km. From about 500m on up low cost ($3k) 10Mbps 802.3 type unlicensed RF [e.g. QuickBridge20] is added for 5-9's. (Beyond 3km 24GHz unlicensed RF [e.g. DragonWave] becomes increasingly attractive.)

3. 1250Mbps GigE up to 300m and then from about 600m on up to 3km with a 24GHz unlicensed RF backup. The 300-600m niche is now best served with the new GigE MEMS based 60GHz unlicensed RF links [e.g. BridgeWave] due to their new very low cost.

As for who's "King of the Hill" in FSO, it's not LightPointe. Not even MRV (who's links I have tended to prefer)...

You can pretty much throw them all into the same "cock fight" and watch them duke it out. They are all working with first or second gen type designs...cheap mulit-beam low tech approaches (even some low-frequency gimbols based alignment being tried).

The "Sleeping Giant", already on their fourth generation of high frequency active alignment is Canon (www.SystemSupportSolutions.com... ). With their November, 2003 release of the new Canobeam DT-100 series they have set the design parameters for FSO into the next ten years or more. It is low cost, trouble free, and kind of reminds me of the Honda-Toyota-Nissan invasion of the early 80's. You never saw or read much about it. It just kind of "happened" over a few years. All of a sudden everyone was buying them.
elila 12/5/2012 | 1:26:09 AM
re: LightPointe Expands Huawei Deal
I need a Gigabit link for 1.5Km, which product would you recommend?

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