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Tidbits from Tokyo

January 18, 2008

Posted by Stephen Hardy

Here are a few post-Fiber Optic Expo tidbits to tide you over until I'm back in the States and (hopefully) able to get back on a normal bio rhythm:

The PON transceiver product line from Xponent Photonics seemed a bit out of place among the fiber and other glass component products at the Hoya Communications booth. Hoya was an investor in the company and is keeping its technology alive, at least for the time being. No word on whether Hoya is hoping to find a buyer or to succeed where the original management failed...Lots of 40G on the show floor from Japanese companies, but almost all of it was in the form of modulators. Yokogawa was the only Japanese company touting a 40G transceiver. More on this and other 40G technology at FOE next week...China Telecom appears to be moving forward with GEPON deployments, with an RFP for about 60,000 lines discussed on the show floor. The problem with tracking what China Telecom is up to, said a source, is that provincial management often acts independently from central management, so programs and purchase decisions could come from almost anywhere...Both Telekom Malaysia and BSNL in India are reported to be looking at FTTH deployments. More on this next week as well...There's apparently life in the XFPe form factor. Mitsubishi introduced a fixed-wavelength device at the show and has a full C-Band, 50-GHz tunable version in development. Expect to see more XFPe talk on the show floor at OFC/NFOEC...Finally (for now), SunSea Telecommunications of China is aiming to position itself as a domestic alternative to 3M and Fujikura for Chinese carriers looking for mechanical splicers. The company expects to have a product ready by May.


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Time to worry?

January 17, 2008

Posted by Stephen Hardy

If a presentation given this morning at the Fiber Optic Expo in Tokyo is any indication, the financial community is already getting nervous about this year's prospects for the carrier market -- and by extension, capex levels and funding for FTTH initiatives, particularly in developed countries such as the U.S. and Japan.

Atsushi Yamaguchi, managing director, UBS Investment Research and senior analyst within the Equity Research Department at UBS Securities Japan Ltd., pointed to a general weakening in the U.S. economy and indications from Cisco that enterprise sales have slowed to suggest that carrier revenues will show decline this year. Such a decline will lead to investor pressure to reduce spending on costly projects -- such as FTTH. In general, Yamaguchi foresees restrictions on fixed-line capex growth among the U.S. RBOCs this year.

Meanwhile, in Japan, Yamaguchi pointed to the fact that NTT has lowered its goal for FTTH subscribers and a slowdon in revenues as indicators of a similar scenario when it comes to NTT's fixed-line spending.

Yamaguchi's thesis was that growth will be found in emerging markets, such as China, rather than in established markets. Yamaguchi said upcoming quarterly revenue figures from Verizon and AT&T; will provide early signs of how much of a revenue decline is in the offing in the U.S.


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By Meghan Fuller Hanna

I have a confession to make: I've never gotten the whole video game thing. I never played Pacman or Donkey Kong as a kid. I never waited with bated breath on Christmas morning, as so many of my friends did, to see if Santa had left an Atari system under the tree. Even today, I don't usually have anything to add when friends and co-workers wax poetic about this new game or that new game . . . and I'm starting to wonder if there's something wrong with me.

So popular is Nintendo's new Wii gaming system, for example, that Japan's NTT recently announced a deal with the company to co-promote the Wii and its FTTH service.

Nintendo and NTT say they will jointly operate call centers to provide support for those connecting to the Internet via their Wii console, and NTT is offering a price break on start-up packages for Wii users.

It's easy to see how both companies might benefit from the deal. Later this year, Nintendo plans to offer a new service, WiiWare, which will enable Wii users to purchase new games via the Internet--a feature that presumably requires the kind of bandwidth that only fiber can deliver. And NTT, which hopes to pass 20 million subscribers by 2011, likely realized the chance to market its FTTH service to all those Wii fanatics was too good to pass up.

The crazy thing is it just might work. If Verizon offered such a deal here, my brother-in-law absolutely would be the first to sign up. He and my sister have a Wii console (I think they had to give up their firstborn to get it), not to mention an Xbox 360 and PlayStation2.

On a recent visit to their house, my brother-in-law showed off his most recent purchase: A game called "Rock Band" that today runs on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation2, though a Wii version is expected at some point in the future. It's sort of like next-generation karaoke, complete with color-coded instruments that match patterns on the TV screen. You just follow the pattern, press the corresponding buttons on the guitar or the drum set, and voila! You're a rock star. Through an Internet connection, you can even play with band mates around the world, and new songs are available for download every week.

Of course, we had to try it. In our little band, my brother-in-law cut loose on the drums, my husband jammed on lead guitar, and my sister tackled base guitar. Which left me--whose only musical ability is turning the dial on my stereo to the "on" position--to wow the virtual crowd on lead vocals.

I have to admit, it was fun. Actually, it was a lot of fun, and I can sort of see how people might get addicted to it.

That said, Lightwave's readers are forever asking me which application I think will serve as THE tipping point for FTTH in North America. Do I really think it's the Wii or the Xbox 360 or games like "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero"? With all due respect to my brother-in-law and other virtual rockers, probably not.

But I do think the NTT/Nintendo partnership underscores the fact that there likely will not be one "killer app." In reality, an amalgam of applications will spur the further penetration of FTTH, and we shouldn't discount any of them (no matter how silly we may feel singing The Police's "Roxanne" into a plastic microphone. For the record, it was like an American Idol tryout, with my husband playing the role of Simon Cowell. Every once in a while, he still busts out a good-natured "Roxannnnnne!" to remind me of my less-than-Grammy-Award-winning performance.)

The bottom line is this: I applaud NTT for taking advantage of the Wii's popularity to promote its FTTH service, for recognizing that any chance it gets to introduce new subscribers to the benefits of fiber is a good one. And I think it's only a matter of time before other carriers follow suit.

[Thank you to Bill St. Arnaud for alerting his mailing list to this announcement. If you aren't already a regular reader of his various blogs, they are worth a look:]

Blogger John Keller said...
Meghan, and you thought that computers were invented for crunching numbers and optical fiber was developed for making telephone calls! Now we finally understand what is the ultimate application for computers and fiber optics -- games. Like they said in 'Field of Dreams,' "If you build it, they will come." Visit the Mil & Aero Blog at

John Keller
Friday, January 11, 2008 2:48:00 PM EST  

Blogger Light Wave Blog said...
A hand for John Keller, editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics, ladies and gentlemen. Sure, his comment is a blatant attempt to draw attention to his blog, but Meghan and I give our coworker credit for running a good information resource that you should check out if you're interested in the electronic and optical aspects of things that go boom or zoom.
Friday, January 11, 2008 3:01:00 PM EST  

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Posted by Stephen Hardy

While competitors such as PMC-Sierra, BroadLight, and Conexant Systems have released chips designed to support the development of hybrid GPON ONT/residential gateway platforms (see announcements here, here, and there), iamba Networks CEO Moshe Nattiv recently told me he isn't sure what all the fuss is about, at least in the short term.

iamba develops and markets a wide range of PON products, from chips and software to ONTs.

The regulations and a requirement for network demarcation points their technicians can access easily will continue to drive Verizon, AT&T;, and most other U.S. carriers to have the ONT on the outside of the home and the gateway inside, he believes. And while others have suggested France Telecom might have interest in a hybrid platform, Nattiv expects that unbundling requirements imposed by French regulatory authorities will lead to configurations in which a single ONT can be shared by multiple service providers -- each of whom will want to use their own gateway.

MDU deployments will require separate ONTs and gateways as well, he says.

Nattiv was quick to add that this viewpoint isn't meant to imply that iamba Networks doesn't have a chip for such hybrid platforms on the roadmap. It's just that he doesn't see any reason to rush it to market.

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By Meghan Fuller Hanna

An interesting little item just crossed my desk from the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers' Ontario Chapter. The group today issued a call for papers for its general meeting, to be held in Hamilton on Tuesday, February 5, 2008.

While this is hardly newsworthy, here's the interesting part: The meeting's theme is fiber-to-the-home/premises, etc.

Call me crazy, but I kinda think that's BIG news.

It seems much has changed since The Wall Street Journal's oft-cited August 17, 2006, article, "Cable industry may need to spend heavily on upgrades," which touched off the will-they/won't-they debate regarding cable MSOs and FTTH technology.

The article cited a Cable Labs report that argued that the MSOs would have to spend billions to ward off the potential threat posed by Verizon's FTTP-based FiOS initiative and AT&T;'s FTTN-based Project Lightspeed. At the time, many of the largest MSOs balked at the report's findings, arguing that their current networks and the emerging DOCSIS 3.0 would be more than sufficient for their long-term needs.

But now we have the SCTE, THE professional association of the cable MSOs, publicly announcing its interest in FTTH.

According to the call, "possible topics of interest" include:

* FTTX topologies;
* FTTX technologies;
* FTTX advanced services/content to be delivered;
* FTTX cost models;
* FTTX challenges in deployment; and
* FTTX state of the industry, current and future deployments.

As someone who was only recently married after 30 (ahem) years of being single, I know first-hand there's a big difference between "interest" and commitment. For their part, the FTTH system vendors seem determined to woo the cable MSOs. (Look for my article on this subject in Lightwave's February issue.) But now it seems the MSOs have decided FTTH is, at the very least, worth getting to know a little better.

In the world of optical communications, this is definitely a Page Six-worthy development.

Blogger Scott said...
It'll be interesting to see what the speakers define as FTTH in this conference. Will they let the GPON folks have the stage or stick to more MSO-specific topics?

There has been a lot of talk of RFoG and other, similar proposals that essentially just change the physical medium from coax to glass without changing protocols or capabilities. That's a much less risky (capital-wise) investment for an MSO but might not be the best long-term strategy.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008 4:39:00 PM EST  

Blogger Geoff Daily said...
Yet another sign of fiber's dominance uber alles!

What's remarkable is that the general public and people in power seem to still not have realized that all the network operators rely on fiber to support their big bandwidth networks.

It doesn't matter if the pipe running into your home is cable, DSL, BPL, or whatever, before long you always hit fiber.

But you're right, this is big news, that the MSOs are already rethinking the viability of fiber.

I'd certainly say if this was the intent of the FTTH supplier industry, then they've succeeded swimmingly!
Thursday, January 10, 2008 9:39:00 PM EST  

Blogger AllFiber said...
RF over Glass (RFoG) solutions were promised in 2008 but Alloptic Inc has been selling this to many companies in 2007. This solution supports FTTH added to the fiber without impacting RFoG services or bandwidth, nice migration to FTTH if needed years later, for the high service demanding customer; one customer at a time.

This is fiber all the way to the home. With DOCSIS 3.0 Modems and applications and features the CATV/MSO companies can compete well against Verizon's BPON FTTH solution. GPON deployment still on hold with no real trigger for Verizon to change from BPON FTTH.

Most customer don't need 100Mpbs dedicated bandwidth at homes. But they sure could use more than they have been offered without fiber. RFoG and DOCSIS 3.0 can provide160/120Mbps shared bandwidth. RFoG can be small as 32 customers sharing this bandwidth. Can even double the bandwidth if needed.
Thursday, January 17, 2008 1:27:00 AM EST  

Blogger Scott said...
Thus the problem with RFoG to date. There is no standard, so nearly anyone can claim that they have the "first" or the "best" RFoG technology. Currently, RFoG is a marketing term that can be twisted to mean whatever a specific vendor wants it to mean.

However, as a service provider - especially a service provider without and existing RF headend - I would be very leery of any sales pitch that must be preceded by the statement "Most customer don't need 100Mpbs dedicated bandwidth at homes...."
Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:29:00 PM EST  

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The Lightwave editorial staff uses The Lightwave Blog to share their thoughts on optical communications and whatever else might be the current topic of conversation from cubicle to cubicle. Feel free to add your own opinions.

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave, which makes him responsible for the editorial aspects of the Lightwave franchise. A technology journalist since 1982, he once had his job duties described as "gets paid to tick off advertisers ".

Meghan Fuller is senior editor of Lightwave. She has degrees from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, and the University of Delaware and is a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation.