Early indications are that the deal, which involves passive optical networking (PON) gear, may just be a flash in the pan. But it also sends some key signals for the access market.
Alcatel will install the PON-driven optical network in a new housing development in California (see Alcatel Wins SBC Broadband Deal). PON is an access technology whereby a single strand of fiber is shared among multiple users through deployment of passive optical splitters.
In what Alcatel calls a "multi-year, multi-million dollar agreement" (specifics not provided), the vendor will supply SBC with PON gear for trials in the residential portion of the Mission Bay development currently underway in San Francisco. SBC says it plans to follow the trials with commercial service during the first quarter of 2003.
But the deployment will be small, at least at first: According to the Catellus Development Corp., which is overseeing the Mission Bay project, only about 595 apartments are set to be done and occupied within 2003. The rest of the 6,000-unit residential portion of Mission Bay will roll out "over a 15- to 20-year period."
Sources say Alcatel won this award in part thanks to a longtime relationship with SBC. Alcatel supplies DSL gear and digital loop carriers to SBC, and it was an early supplier to SBC's now-defunct Project Pronto DSL trial, which reportedly was ditched last year by SBC when unbundling loomed (see Competitive Carriers Lash Out at FCC).
Other competitors, such as Quantum Bridge Communications Inc., weren't ready with residential gear when the initial SBC request went out late in 2000 or early in 2001. Marconi PLC (Nasdaq/London: MONI), which also bid, subsequently pulled out of the PON market (see Marconi to 'Streamline' Access ), although it says it will support a deal for trials at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and hold its products in abeyance until a market comes along. Paceon, which won a trial award from SBC for business PON in Texas last year, apparently didn’t have the goods SBC wanted in a residential device.
Other PON vendors say they found themselves locked out of the RFP when they requested inclusion later on.
Is the SBC/Alcatel deal yet another example of a slow-moving RBOC/PON trial set to go nowhere? No, say PON pushers. A tough bunch, used to disappointment but ever optimistic (see PON Believers Hang Tough), proponents say Alcatel's news is good, for several reasons:
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com Want to know more? The big cheeses of the optical networking industry will be discussing this very topic at Opticon 2002, Light Reading’s annual conference, being held in San Jose, California, August 19-22. Check it out at Opticon 2002.
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