Hold on to your hats. Next-gen optical technology is getting a rocket boost thanks to a successful field test by Verizon, and a commitment by the telco to issue a request for proposals from equipment and software providers later this year. That RFP, when it comes, will signal the start of a major network upgrade initiative that allows Verizon to offer symmetrical broadband speeds up to 10 Gbits/s, with the potential to go even higher.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s field test of next-generation passive optical network (NG-PON2) technology took place on a network link between the company's central office in Framingham, Mass., and a home three miles away served by Verizon FiOS. The test required installation of a new optical line terminal (OLT) at the central office supporting four wavelengths, each capable of delivering speeds up to 10 Gbits/s downstream and 2.5 Gbits/s upstream. Verizon also said it was able to demonstrate the simultaneous use of standard GPON and NG-PON2 on a single fiber, and a successful fail-over scenario where its new ONT autonomously restored 10G service by tuning to a new wavelength after a simulated fault was introduced.
The primary appeal of NG-PON2 is its application in commercial services. Telecom providers face growing competition in the business services arena, and increased demand for more bandwidth from customers, particularly related to mobile fronthaul and backhaul applications. (See 10G PON Technologies: Where Do They Make Sense?)
However, Verizon also called out the potential for NG-PON2 in residential services as well, noting a need for more bandwidth that will be driven by 4K or Ultra HD video and the Internet of Things. In other words, Verizon finally answered the competitive siren coming from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), cable operators and other providers who are touting their own gigabit and multi-gigabit residential deployments. (See Comcast trots out Gigabit Pro… at a price, Gigabites: Wall Street Cheers EPB's Gig and EPB: 10Gbit/s Service Feasible Within a Year.)
"The advantage of our FiOS network," said Lee Hicks, vice president of network technology at Verizon, "is that it can be upgraded easily by adding electronics onto the fiber network that is already in place. Deploying this exciting new technology sets a new standard for the broadband industry and further validates our strategic choice of fiber-to-the-premises."
By announcing its plan to release an RFP this year, Verizon threw down the metaphorical gauntlet to network vendors in the industry. The last widespread upgrade to its fiber network took place with the transition from BPON to GPON that started in 2006. At the time, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Motorola and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) were the big contract winners. AlcaLu looks to be a possible candidate this time around too, but it's facing numerous rivals that are also making noise in the NG-PON2 market, including Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN), Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and of course Cisco. (See Alcatel-Lucent Fires NG-PON2 Starting Gun, Calix Enters NG-PON2 Race and Eurobites: Cyber Attack Hits UK Mobile Giant.)
Adtran, notably, introduced a new "flexible optics approach" to NG-PON2 deployments back in May. The company's solution supports interoperability with different types of optical transceivers, allowing for a pay-as-you-grow business model that could significantly improve the economics of any commercial rollout. Like any good New IP solution, Adtran's offering also supports provisioning through open APIs, creating a method for using software-defined networking to manage bandwidth upgrades. (See Adtran Claims Advance in NG-PON2 Economics.)
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading