OCCAM PASSES ON PON FOR ACTIVE ETHERNET
Occam Networks last week dove head-first into the fiber-to-the-premises market with a new optical line termination blade for its BLC 6000 Broadband Loop Carrier System, aligning with a small but growing contingent that believes active Ethernet is the architecture of choice for telcos.
In addition to the new blade, the company also launched an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) that supports six 10/100TX Ethernet ports, two POTS ports and an option for two additional POTS ports. The BLC blade, which will be demonstrated at Supercomm next week, is designed to provide enough bandwidth for 1 Gb/s to every user.
Occam, which has had its greatest traction among smaller and mid-sized independent telcos, is targeting carriers that want to offer triple play but want greater bandwidth than that offered by passive optical network (PON) architectures.
Originally, the company had planned on partnering with a PON vendor to get into the FTTP market, but felt the technology was too strategic to its intentions.
“I spent time with five different PON vendors that we could partner with, and I failed at that effort,” said Kris Sowolla, Occam's vice president of business development. “We did lose some time, but we came to the right decision.”
The company will begin field trials of both the BLC blade and the ONT in the third quarter with product shipments in the fourth quarter.
Despite the loss of time, the company is one of the few vendors — World Wide Packets and Alloptic being the others — advocating active Ethernet. However, Sowolla said the equipment cost has declined to the point that active architectures are the same price as PON.
And given the additional bandwidth one gets from active versus passive along with the sunken cost that telcos already have in the access network, most eventually will migrate to it.
“Active also is a much more open technology,” he said, noting that the company would begin testing interoperability with other vendors' ONTs.
But, thus far, active technology has taken hold more in the municipal fiber world and not in the independent telcos in part because the costs aren't that close, said David Markowitz, vice president of marketing for Zhone, which launched an OLT based on PON last year.
“From a numbers perspective I'd love to give a Gigabit to every premise and a chicken in every pot, but it's still kind of expensive,” he said. “The number of deployments is still very small.”
Sowolla, though, said Occam made the move to active Ethernet in part because it wanted to give independents peace of mind that there is a migration path that can start with its BLC.
“They might not even be thinking about deploying FTTP in 2005 or 2006, but they want the confidence to know that the copper-based solution will have the fiber capability,” he said.
Kevin Walsh, vice president of marketing for Calix, which released a BPON blade for its C7 BLC this year and has been shipping a Gigabit blade for some time, said virtually every vendor is migrating to Gigabit PONs (see related story on this page), but it will take time before carriers deploy.
“It's great for business because you design a service that can be ‘granular-ized’ in 1-gig increments. From a cost standpoint and bandwidth standpoint, it's still a little bit of overkill for residential users,” Walsh said. “Realistically, GPON won't be deployed in any meaningful scale until at least late next year.
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