The gigabit arms race continues.
Network equipment vendor Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) announced today that it's in trials with a handful of customers for 10-Gig broadband deployments. The news follows word earlier this month that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has now reached first-stage approval with two next-generation PON standards: XGS-PON for 10-Gig rollouts and NG-PON2 for 40-Gig symmetrical fiber services. Adtran was a contributor to the XGS-PON standard, and that technology is what underlies the new 10-Gig trials. (See also Gigabites: Google, ITU Think Beyond the Gig.)
Adtran named only one 10-Gig customer in its press release -- Jackson Energy Authority -- but confirmed in an interview that trials are underway with a number of customers. The company also provided color on what those customers look like, noting that trial participants include new market entrants, municipal providers and at least one Tier 1 international carrier.
So who needs speeds up to 10 Gigabits per second? Maybe nobody yet, but the milestone gives competitive advantage to any company that can claim it, and the impression to outsiders that a particular city or region is early to the high-speed broadband party. That early-adopter status is attractive to both residents and businesses and can help boost economic development efforts.
As Adtran points out, having the flexibility of 10-Gig PON also means operators gain the capacity to offer multiple gigabit services at multiple service tiers. For example, a service provider might primarily sell 1-Gig broadband services, but also promote a 3-Gig or 4-Gig broadband tier in order to one-up Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) with that company's symmetrical 2-Gig Gigabit Pro offering.
Adtran has also made the push for XGS-PON because it believes there needs to be an intermediate step between the GPON that exists today and NG-PON2, which is higher performance but also promises to be cost-prohibitive for many. Originally, XG-PON was meant to be that intermediate step, but without symmetrical speeds (XG-PON offered 10 Gbits/s downstream, but only 2.5 Gbits/s upstream), that technology was harder to sell.
Importantly, Adtran continues to highlight the fact that XGS-PON gives operators the ability to adopt a pay-as-you grow business model. Ultimately, if and when operators move to full NG-PON2, they can continue to use the same fiber infrastructure, switching out optics as needed.
Previously, Adtran has also emphasized its support for open APIs in its XGS-PON architecture, and its longer-term goal to help create programmable, New IP networks where bandwidth provisioning is managed through software controls. (See Adtran Claims Advance in NG-PON2 Economics.)
In the meantime, Adtran sees a bright near-term future for next-generation PON as a whole.
"Our hope is 2017, XGS-PON is the broadband of choice," said Kurt Raaflaub, head of global product marketingat Adtran, "that come 2017 if you're putting another gigabit broadband customer or neighborhood on your network, it just absolutely should be a next-gen PON network."
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading