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Adtran CEO: Broadband Boom Is Back

Broadband is getting hot again, and it's going to be made even hotter by the advent of 5G wireless and actually made easier to deploy by the arrival of virtualization, Adtran CEO Tom Stanton says today.

Speaking in an interview just after he addressed analysts and journalists at the company's annual briefing event in Huntsville, Ala., Stanton says Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) is well positioned to address a market that is looking at "a 100-fold increase in access speeds, somewhere between 10- and 100-fold increase in access connections, from a fixed wireless perspective and multiple hundreds if you consider IoT [Internet of Things]." He said the arrival of 5G and millimeter wave technology will push the industry toward wireless as the final connection, but all of that traffic will mostly be riding fiber or souped-up copper through the network.

Adtran CEO Tom Stanton Addresses Analysts
Photo by Elizabeth Coyne
Photo by Elizabeth Coyne

The need to deliver all that bandwidth necessitated the shift to software-defined networking, and that move actually makes Adtran's work easier, now that it has reorganized into a "functional engineering operation," Stanton notes.

"If you are going to run a network that's got billions of different end connections instead of tens of millions, fundamentally you have to do things differently," he says. Companies such as Amazon Web Services Inc. and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) "have figured out how to handle billions of users and you are seeing the carriers follow through that same thought process."


Want to know more about booming broadband? Check out our dedicated Gigabit content channel here on Light Reading.


In the SDN world, Adtran can use the same software pieces it develops to support any physical access technology, instead of developing separate network elements for each.

"Our Mosaic announcement is a great example," Stanton says. "The cloud piece of it -- you can think of that as an infrastructure on the north side of an SDN controller and the Mosaic operating system, you can think of that as an endpoint on the south side of an SDN controller. Those are fundamentally the same software pieces, part of the architecture envisioned in SDN, which makes development easier. I no longer have to have separate elements depending on whether its G.fast or OLTs [optical line terminals] or VSDL. These pieces will be the same with different drivers." (See Adtran Pieces Together a Software-Defined Access Mosaic.)

The industry is just beginning to address how the shift to SDN will impact things such as vendor-carrier relationships and how products are priced and sold, Stanton notes.

"We are responding to RFPs right now that are for the first time talking about software elements -- I don't think the customer base is really fairly cognizant of the different elements that have to be done," he says. "We are selling SDN software with G.fast -- that is the only way you can buy it. So we are positioning SDN application elements within their network. It is where they want to go so it is an easy sell."

Going forward, the shift to SDN will make it easier to sell new capabilities into the telecom market as software, Stanton says. And that's where he sees things getting interesting.

"One of the best things about this is that it does open up an evolution path that is not as burdensome," he comments. "Trying to put revolutionary products into a telco -- 10 years ago, that was impossible. This opens up the carrier market to have evolutionary products."

Stanton sees Adtran as being in a strong position versus its competition -- which includes Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), the latter in the US only -- because he believes the company has industry-leading technology for optics, DSL vectoring, XGS-PON and NG-PON2, making it possible to meet the varying needs of telecom providers as part of an holistic approach. (See Even in Gigabit Era, Access Fiber Choices Vary.)

"We have a broad line of very competitive access pieces that fit every niche, and from an architectural point of view, we can bring all that together under one umbrella and sell it to them more holistically," he says.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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