Sunday, November 11, 2007

Customer Premise - The Forgotten Piece of the Puzzle

From a company in MN whose specialty is the last 10 ft of FTTx networks and the transition to the new platform.


The field work is complete with the fiber installed and spliced. The CO equipment is ready and the vendor has provided training for key staff. Now it is time to start moving customers to the new network. The question is how to best implement this portion of the project.

There have been many improvements enabling service providers to streamline their deployments and cut installation costs. Pre-connectorized drops and advances in premise splicing equipment have made the installation process manageable for field personnel.

What has been overlooked with most of the engineering plans and requests for proposal is the customer premise.

The average customer with POTS and maybe DSL takes for granted that when they pick up their phone or turn on their computer they will have service. They will question why you are fixing something that is not broke! While a portion of your customer base is knowledgeable of broadband and will be awaiting the upgrade most will need to be educated on the benefits of your new network.

The vast majority of customers I have encountered had little or no knowledge of why they needed to upgrade or what the benefits would be for them. They were asked to sign a permit to allow the drop to be installed and equipment placed on their home.

The next contact they had was a customer service person calling to schedule the appointment for transition to the new platform.

Customers with POTS only don’t understand the need to install the UPS and associated power cable to support a service they already have that is working.

Installation of the UPS inside the premise were power is available and the location is acceptable to the home owner is a challenge with almost every residence.

DSL customers want higher speed and reliability but many times will need the internal wiring to their computer or router upgraded to support the advanced services.

Adding video to this equation be it RF or IP can further complicate the deployment.

You may need to qualify the existing customer wiring and update or replace connectors and or passives. When deploying IP based solutions will you use the existing coax and media converters or run new cat5 cable? When a CPE is used it will need to be integrated into the customers existing home entertainment equipment.

With all these issues to consider the ultimate challenge is getting into the customer premise to begin with.

Scheduling installations that will work into your customers schedule as well as the schedule of needed support staff at the CO can be painstaking.

To the customer this is an inconvenience and the time allotted for the appointment difficult to determine due to the number of unknown factors.

Educating your customers on what will take place and the benefits to them will reduce friction for both parties. I have been involved in many deployments across the country and have seen several approaches to these issues. Town meetings have been used in cooperatives that outlined the project with updates via news letters. Direct mailing to customers explaining the project with a hotline for questions is another method utilized by service providers.

When the time comes to activate the premise network customer service is crucial. The wiring needs to be done in a manner that is acceptable to the home owner and within NEC and or RUS guidelines. The installation staff must be knowledgeable of the equipment and capable of activating all services in one visit and in a timely manner. When installation is complete the customer must have services that are comparable to or better than what they had on the copper network. Your business case will determine the pace of the upgrade and whether to utilize in-house staff contractors or both.

Hiring additional staff to expedite the rollout of new services is one answer but requires upfront expenditures for vehicles, tools and training. Then once the upgrade is complete the inherent lower maintenance of fiber networks will require less staff in the long term.

Cable companies have used contract installers for many years to fill the inevitable peaks and valleys of the work flow associated with their industry. Most premise contractors today are required to be skilled in triple play installations.

Whatever route is taken the installation technician is many times the only direct contact your customers will ever have with your company. They need to present themselves in a professional manner and extend the values of your company while being able to produce a quality installation.

The bottom line is not to alienate your customers in this process and lose them to your competitors. By providing the best possible customer service you will be able to keep and grow your customer base.

Patrick McNelis

Director of Field Service

PONtech Corp

Monday, October 22, 2007

Broadbandtrends: FTTH systems revenue peaks in 2009

OCTOBER 22, 2007 -- The global FTTH market is currently entering a period of growth that will peak in 2009, says market research and analysis firm broadbandtrends in its recently published report, FTTH Equipment Market Begins to "See the Light."

The growth comes as an increasing number of Tier 1 operators across Asia Pacific, EMEA, and North America deploy FTTH networks on a large scale. Additionally, demand for higher bandwidth (particularly in support of multi-stream HDTV IPTV video services), strong competition from cable and alternative operators, escalating costs to maintain copper infrastructure, continuing innovations and cost reductions in optical infrastructure, increasing FTTH interoperability activity, as well as the ability to converge all services onto a single network, are helping to reinforce the attractiveness of FTTH for many operators.

As shown in the figure, PON systems will experience the strongest growth and account for greater than 85 percent of total FTTH systems revenue throughout the forecast period. At the present time, total FTTH systems revenue is expected to reach its peak value during 2009 before experiencing downward pressure, primarily due to declining price points.

Major report highlights include:

  • Global FTTH systems revenue is expected to reach its peak value of $3.0 billion in 2009.
  • PON systems revenue will dominate the global FTTH market throughout the forecast period.
  • GPON will overtake EPON revenue by 2009 and shipments in 2010.
  • Asia Pacific will consume the largest portion of FTTH equipment through 2011, when North America takes over.
  • North America's share of FTTH subscribers will grow from 10 percent in 2006 to 22 percent by 2012.
  • Nearly 170 million homes will be passed by FTTH by 2012.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

If It's Good Enough For TRUMP...

Two of Donald Trump's Super-Luxurious Buildings to Get Verizon's Super-Fast FiOS Internet Connections

Residents of The Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza and Trump Park Avenue Will Enjoy the Most Advanced, Fiber-Powered Technology and Ability to Surf the Internet at Speeds of Up to 50 MbpsTrump...

By PR Newswire

NEW YORK, Oct. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Residents of The Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza and Trump Park Avenue have always enjoyed the latest amenities. Now they'll have the most advanced communications available when Verizon turns on its FiOS Internet service at the two buildings.

Trump Organization Chairman and President Donald J. Trump said, "Trump properties are known for offering the finest in both services and amenities. Having Verizon FiOS services delivered on fiber optics to my buildings continues that high standard of excellence I demand. We know our residents will appreciate our foresight in getting them the best in telecommunications services from Verizon. I'm working with Verizon to bring FiOS to all of my properties."

Donald Trump and Verizon are exploring which other Trump properties can be served by FiOS. Verizon offers FiOS services in parts of 16 states.

Trump Organization Chief Operating Officer Matthew Calamari said, "We never had a second thought about having Verizon FiOS services installed in the buildings.

"At Trump Properties we provide super-luxurious accommodations and the latest technology to serve our residents," said Calamari. "When we learned that there's an even more advanced network in the marketplace that can deliver the fastest Internet connections, we wanted to bring it immediately to our residents. It's technology that we believe will support future technologies our residents will adopt."

The plans for FiOS at The Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza (845 United Nations Plaza) and Trump Park Avenue (502 Park Ave.) reflect the competitive advantage Verizon's fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network offers developers in marketing their properties.

Vice President of Verizon Enhanced Communities Eric Cevis said, "We are working as fast as we can to bring FiOS Internet services to residents in New York City. Residents at these two Trump properties, along with consumers who live in other parts of the five boroughs where FiOS Internet is available, will truly be amazed when they surf the Internet or download feature films with FiOS. We'll work with the Trump team to get FiOS to as many properties as we can."

At 50 Mbps, downloading a 1.2 GB (gigabyte), or 90-minute, standard- definition movie takes only 3.2 minutes.

Cevis also noted that FiOS TV, Verizon's feature-rich service, could be made available to the two Trump properties and elsewhere in the city once a local video franchise is approved. In New York, cable TV service providers are required by law to negotiate franchises with municipalities they hope to serve.

Verizon's FiOS Internet service in New York offers download speeds of up to 10, 20 and 50 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 5 Mbps. Verizon is constructing its all-fiber-optic network throughout the state. Currently, Verizon offers FiOS Internet service in many parts of the five boroughs of New York and elsewhere throughout the state. FiOS TV service is available on Long Island and in Westchester and Rockland counties.

The Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza is the tallest residential complex in the Western Hemisphere. It offers over-sized condominium residences and penthouses on 90 floors -- a total of 376 living units. Trump Park Avenue, the former Delmonico Hotel, offers residences from one to seven bedrooms, including full-floor apartments, an extraordinary duplex and penthouses on 35 floors. Both Trump properties offer residents a fitness center, valet and laundry service, and more.

FiOS Internet was named to the top five of PC World Magazine's 100 Best Products of 2007 - a roster of what the magazine called "the finest products and services of the past 12 months," selected "based on exemplary design, features, performance and innovation." Readers of PC World and Computerworld magazines recently ranked FiOS Internet No. 1, with top scores across the board in overall satisfaction, connection reliability, download and upload speeds, customer service, and technical support. Additionally, Verizon is the only major telecom company whose network has earned the certification of the independent Fiber to the Home Council for providing fiber all the way to customers' homes.

For more information about The Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza, visit; for more information about Trump Park Avenue, visit

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fios is catching on in Dallas and nationwide, Verizon exec says

More than 150,000 Dallas-area homes are now plugged into Verizon's fiber-optic Internet service, Verizon's chief technology officer said Wednesday

And more than 100,000 subscribe to the company's fiber-optic television service, Mark Wegleitner said in an interview after his keynote speech at the Telephony Live conference in Dallas.

"Things are going very well down here with Fios," Mr. Wegleitner said.

But while Fios got its start in the Dallas area – Keller, specifically – the technology is quickly spreading nationwide.

Roughly 9 million American households will be able to sign up for Fios by the end of the year, and that number is expected to double by 2011.

The service is available to about 400,000 homes in the Dallas area.

Verizon had about 1.1 million Fios Internet customers nationwide as of June 30, an increase of 203,000 since the first quarter of the year.

Fios TV customers totaled more than 515,000 at the end of June, an increase of 167,000.

Verizon also announced Wednesday that it has applied to make its video service available to an additional 15,000 homes in Far North Dallas and North Grand Prairie.

Fios is one of Verizon's biggest bets, as the company is investing nearly $23 billion between 2004 and 2010 in creating an ultrahigh-speed network that is designed to last two decades or more.

For example, some employees are already testing in their homes Fios connections with download at speeds as fast as 100 megabits per second, whereas most home broadband Internet connections in the U.S. now are 5 megabits per second or less.

And it's a bet that, so far, other television, telephone and Internet providers have declined to copy by building their own to-the-home fiber networks, although AT&T may be coming closest with its U-Verse system.

Mr. Wegleitner said the investment will pay off, though, and said Verizon expects to benefit from laying the groundwork for the bandwidth-intensive applications of the future, from high-definition video to playing massive, online video and computer games.

Here are some excerpts from the interview.

Why is Fios important to Verizon?

"The consumer area is extremely important to us. The movement of that market to broadband at the current rate is unprecedented. What we've done with Fios is build a vehicle out there where we can provide services to feed that hunger for those broadband applications.

"It's a platform on which we can provide any number of services in the voice, video, data and wireless domain. That's why we picked Fios. It was a tough decision, because it's a lot of money. But on the other hand, it's the platform that can take us into the next decade."

With the download speeds currently available on Fios, is the goal to make the Fios TV offering eventually a pure IPTV technology, where consumers can just download any show they want at any time rather than having to adhere to a network schedule?

"I may be a bit of a contrarian on this, because it's very easy to jump on the bandwagon and say it's all going to be viewing on demand and time-shifted programming. But the fact of the matter is, there are still two very important things out there today that do have a time component to them, and that's news and sports. So if you're going to do news and sports, you're probably into something akin to broadcasting.

"The other thing is, and this is where my contrarian side probably kicks in, I think there are social events built around TV. This is just a cultural thing. When you get to the office on Friday morning, there are a number of people who probably want to talk about the show right then. They saw it as soon as it was available, and they're excited about what happened, and they want to discuss it around the water cooler."

Right now, the fastest available Fios Internet connection is 50 megabits per second in some cities (30 megabits per second in the Dallas area). When will see 100-megabit-per-second connections?

"We're already testing 100-megabit-per-second service to a couple of employees. It works fine. It doesn't mean we're going to go there right away [as a commercial offering], because there aren't very many applications out there right now that could use 100 megabits per second. But the nice thing about this technology is it gives us the headroom for the things we see coming."

Will the average consumer ever need that kind of speed?

"I think we're already seeing a demand for speed that is certainly greater than DSL. Ultimately, we would see applications that would push DSL beyond the limit. Fios investment is a minimum of a 15-year investment. We put in a technology that has a 15, 20, 25 year life, because we've got a broad number of things to do."

Do you encourage software makers to make online applications that need that kind of speed, such as a high-definition video download service?

"We have conversations with hundreds of different companies that are specializing in certain areas, and a whole group that is multimedia applications and service focused. But frankly, I don't think they're going to need a lot of stimulus from us. There is an engine that runs, which is that if you put the device and the network in place, the applications will show up, and vice versa."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

FTTM - Fiber to the Mountain

Click here to listen to a neat little clip about running power AND fiber up to the top of Mount Washington (a mountain I've hiked about 10 times)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Investors can cash in as demand for fiber optics takes off

Despite the countless miles of unused fiber-optic cable laid during the dot-com bubble, demand for the high-capacity lines has been rising. And that bodes well for the stocks of companies that produce not only the cable but also the equipment that runs it.

Fiber-optic cable, typically made of ultrapure glass, can carry vast amounts of data via light. During the boom days of the Internet bubble, phone companies buried vast amounts of fiber-optic cable, in part because they assumed that Internet traffic would soar.

Many companies initially laid large cables underground, even though many of the fibers wouldn't be used at first.

In the years since the dot-com boom, engineers have figured out how to move more data through the same amount of fiber, increasing the fiber-optic capacity. As a result, there are still untold miles of unused fiber cable, or dark fiber, in the USA.

But now, demand for new fiber-optic cable is zooming. "Worldwide, we expect double-digit growth rates in fiber-optic cable demand the next few years," says Richard Mack of KMI Research/CRU, a London-based research firm. One key reason: the boom in moving video and audio files via the Internet.

The light fantastic

Watching a video on the Internet sops up far more bandwidth than just surfing websites does. The proliferation of video sites such as YouTube means that consumers have been demanding more and more bandwidth, to move files at faster speeds.

Fiber-optic cable demand should rise 10% in the USA this year, Mack says, and by as much as 15% in China and 20% in India. Each nation has different reasons for high demand:

USA. There's plenty of dark cable left, mainly around large metro areas. And telecom companies are still laying cable. "It's part of forward planning," Mack says. "As we speak, people are putting in more cable than they need."

Demand for U.S. fiber-optic cable isn't coming from companies that are laying fiber for 20 years from now; it's mainly from companies that are connecting houses and apartments to existing fiber-optic lines. Despite all the cable available between cities, telecommunications companies still have to run cable down streets to link homes and offices to the existing lines.

About 1.3 million U.S. households, or 1.3% of all, were connected directly to fiber-optic lines in July, according to the Fiber-to-the-Home Council, a trade group. That number has grown to about 2% of households since then and could reach 25% within three years, says David St. John, spokesman for the group.

Verizon is spearheading the fiber-to-home growth in the USA. It connected about 203,000 new customers to its FiOS broadband and TV services in the second quarter of 2007. The company plans to spend a staggering $23 billion on its fiber-optic network by 2010. "Verizon is betting the farm on it," St. John says.

Helping to accelerate fiber-to-the-home growth is new bendable fiber, which makes it easier to connect apartment buildings to fiber-optic cable. Fiber-optic cable has high capacity. But it can crack or lose capacity if it's bent too sharply. On Wednesday, Corning, the largest U.S. producer of fiber-optic cable, introduced its ClearCurve cable, which it says is as bendable as copper wire — yet has about 3 million times the capacity.

China. Chinese fiber-optic-cable demand has grown about 20% a year the past few years, Mack says, but will slow to about 15% this year because China has already built much of its city-to-city backbone. Still, the Chinese will use a great deal of cable as they prepare for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

India. India is still building its Internet backbone, and demand for fiber-optic cable should grow about 20% a year, Mack says.

The biggest player in the fiber-optic-cable business is Corning. And it's a favorite among those who are bullish on fiber stocks. "Our biggest play there is Corning," says Kevin Landis, manager of Firsthand Technology Value fund.

Fiber options

Landis figures that Corning will benefit from the push to hook up households via optical fiber. He also thinks Corning will benefit from international growth. "Even though WorldCom deployed too much fiber across the Great Plains, that doesn't help China any."

Corning's stock performance hasn't lived up to its potential: It's up just 3.3% the past 12 months. Daniel Scalzi, CEO of Matrix USA, a Wall Street research firm, thinks the company has to shore up its balance sheet: "When you look at its profit margin and valuation, it doesn't work for us. They're spending a lot of money to make not enough money. That said, they're in a great business."

Ken Croft, manager of Croft-Leominster Value, suggests Cisco, which makes much of the equipment necessary for fiber-optic telecom. The stock has soared 40.8% over the past 12 months. But it isn't cheap: The stock is selling for 21.8 times its 2009 estimated earnings. (The price-earnings ratio tells you how expensive a stock is, relative to earnings. Lower is better.)

Another suggestion: General Cable, (BGC) which makes copper as well as fiber-optic cable. The stock has soared nearly 80% the past 12 months, and it sells for about 16 times its 2008 estimated earnings. But it's volatile: It's fallen about 15% the past three months.

A final possibility: Sumitomo Electric, a Japanese company with a fiber-optic-cable division.

Friday, September 21, 2007

AT&T aims for 10,000 IPTV installs per week

AT&T has reduced the average installation time for its U-verse IPTV service by 13% in the past month, according to Ralph de la Vega, the carrier’s group president of regional telecommunications and entertainment. And the company hopes to continue reducing installation times and increasing the pace of service activations.

Recent process improvements have allowed AT&T to reduce its average U-verse installation time from 7.5 hours to 6.5 hours over the past month, de la Vega said at an investor conference this week.

“My best region is doing 5.8,” he said. “My best district is doing 5.6, and my best technician is doing 4. So I like the trend.”

In recent weeks, AT&T has been averaging between 7,000 and 8,000 installations per week, he said. “Ten thousand is very doable.”

Earlier this month, the company announced having amassed 100,000 subscribers for the IPTV service.

Along with historical improvements in technology costs, de la Vega also cited improvements in video encoding technologies that allow for better use of network bandwidth. “Today we code using 8.5 Mb,” he said. “We now have codecs we’ll put into our network effective next month that do it at 6.5 Mb.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

U.S. Start-Ups Set Sights on India

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Rehan Jalil founded his wireless-broadband company WiChorus Inc. two years ago and based it here in the heart of Silicon Valley. But when it actually starts selling its gear to phone companies next year, WiChorus won't be looking for customers in California or anywhere else in the U.S. The company's target market is thousands of miles away -- in India.

In a twist on globalization -- and a nod to India's fast-growing economy -- an increasing number of high-tech start-ups, like WiChorus, are basing their operations in the U.S. but setting their sights on Indian customers.

[Indian Connection]

Many of these Silicon Valley companies, often headed by Indian-born entrepreneurs, sell specially designed, low-cost products particularly suited to people in developing nations.

Examples include Bubble Motion Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif., which sells a voice-messaging service popular with non-English speakers who can't or don't want to type out text messages on a phone keypad. (Though some customers speak English, others are illiterate or use local Indian dialects that don't employ the Roman alphabet.) Biotech outfit ReaMetrix Inc., of San Carlos, Calif., develops low-cost diagnostic tests to manage ailments like diabetes and HIV infection. And Mobio Networks Inc. of Cupertino, Calif., is working with several Indian phone carriers to offer via cellphone free and low-cost entertainment, like sports information and gossip. All are funded by U.S. venture-capital firms.

Some of these start-ups are also targeting U.S. or European customers, or could do it down the road. But for now, most are following the made-in-the-USA, sold-in-India model, trying to tap India's rapidly expanding consumer market in hot industries like wireless technology and life sciences.

With these companies, "the market is Indian. The entrepreneur might be Indian," says Navin Chaddha, a managing director with the Mayfield Fund venture-capital firm, which is an investor in WiChorus. "But the problem is being solved in the U.S. for a market that sits outside the U.S."

Even though their products are destined for foreign shores, often these companies say they must be based in the U.S. to have access to specialized engineering talent, U.S. venture capital, or to protect intellectual property.

The trend represents the latest wrinkle in Silicon Valley's relationship with India. Engineers from the country have long migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area to get graduate degrees, find jobs and start companies. More recently, Silicon Valley companies have outsourced customer support and even some product-development work to India, though some have pulled back as labor costs there have climbed.

Venture capitalists also have begun investing directly in Indian companies, targeting the domestic Indian market. According to the National Venture Capital Association, a trade group, U.S. venture capitalists sank nearly $932 million into Indian companies last year, up from $583 million in 2005.

But WiChorus's Mr. Jalil, 37 years old, says many Indians prefer to work for bigger, brand-name firms and are hesitant to sign on with start-ups, which are seen as risky. He also says the U.S. offers a bigger, deeper pool of engineers with more expertise in a wireless technology called WiMAX and other arcane specialties critical to WiChorus's success. (WiMAX is similar to the Wi-Fi technology that creates Internet "hot spots" in cafes and airports, but operates over a much larger geographical area and can sometimes be accessed on the go, such as from a moving car.)

Many of Mr. Jalil's most-important employees are veterans of local high-tech companies, most notably Cisco Systems Inc. And his investors are big-name venture capitalists from Menlo Park and Palo Alto, which are both near his company's headquarters.

"Silicon Valley is the only place you could do this," asserts Mr. Jalil, an engineer who was born in Pakistan but educated in the U.S. He started WiChorus in late 2005 after leaving another wireless start-up, Aperto Networks, because he says he wanted to create lower-cost broadband technology for the developing world.

WiChorus does employ about 15 people in Hyderabad, a city in India well-known as a high-tech hub. But those workers mainly build network-management software, which Mr. Jalil calls "very specific, contained work," though it is critical to WiChorus's product.

WiChorus's 45 employees and assorted consultants in San Jose -- who work in cubicles and labs on the third floor of an office building with eye-catching, pumpkin-colored walls -- are the ones doing the hard-core product innovation, Mr. Jalil says. They include researchers with Ph.Ds from the University of California at Berkeley and managers like Sheldon Gilbert, the company's Massachusetts Institute of Technology-educated head of business development who founded another wireless-broadband company called Ensemble Communications. WiChorus's head of engineering, Kamal Avlani, spent 10 years at Cisco developing high-end routing devices for directing Internet traffic.

WiChorus is focusing on India first because WiMAX is sorely needed there, according to Mr. Jalil. The Indian government is pushing to increase broadband penetration but is now stymied by a lack of phone lines to offer high-speed access.

Of India's more than 1.1 billion people, only about 40 million subscribe to a traditional landline phone service, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. And not all of those lines are capable of transmitting data at broadband speeds, Mr. Jalil says. As of July, there were 193 million wireless-phone subscribers.

WiChorus says its gear can help offer Internet connectivity without the phone lines for as little as $15 a month. That may still be too expensive for the average Indian, who makes less than $900 a year, according to the World Bank, but it is affordable for higher-skilled workers. And prices could dip lower, just as charges for cellphone services have dropped in India over the past several years, according to Mr. Jalil.

Mr. Jalil says the reason that phone carriers using WiChorus's equipment will be able to charge so little is that the company has simplified products such as cellphone base stations (which serve as hubs to let the phones communicate), taking out nonessential features and functions. The company announced yesterday that it has received nearly $25 million in financing from U.S. investors that include the Mayfield Fund, Redpoint Ventures and Accel Partners.

Not everyone is convinced the new offshore business model is a good one. Rob Chandra, a managing partner at investment firm Bessemer Venture Partners in Menlo Park, says companies need more than great engineering talent to build products the developing world will buy.

"I am skeptical of companies that can know enough about what Indian consumers and enterprises need if the start-ups' management is sitting in Silicon Valley," says Mr. Chandra.

Mr. Jalil notes that most big Indian telecom carriers buy their core infrastructure from Western companies, like Finland's Nokia Corp. He is convinced WiChorus's technology is very relevant to India. "You can really bridge the gap between the emerging world and the developed world by bringing broadband connectivity," he says.

They're talking 'bout FTTH at ECOC

Is FTTH more alive in Europe than it may at first appear? Click here to find out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Go Buy Corning Stock - Info from Standard & Poor's

S&P says demand for the company's LCD panels and fiber-optic gear will strengthen and rates the stock a strong buy

We contend that Corning (GLW; recent price, $24.71) is well-positioned to benefit from growing demand for both liquid-crystal display panels and fiber-optic telecommunications equipment. By our analysis, Corning's markets for LCD glass panels will remain strong, while the company's investments in facilities and its relationships with leading market share television manufacturers should yield higher sales.

We also forecast that fiber-optic sales to the telecommunications sector will strengthen over the next two years. We expect strong revenue and earnings-per-share gains in 2007 and 2008.

In our view, the shares are undervalued vs. those of peers and warrant a 5-STARS (strong buy) recommendation.

The telecommunications segment produces optical fiber and cable and hardware and equipment products for the worldwide telecommunications industry. A significant portion of Corning's optical fiber is sold to its own subsidiaries. The company's hardware and equipment products include cable assemblies, fiber-optic hardware, fiber-optic connectors, and optical components and couplers.

In April, 2007, Corning announced plans to reopen a portion of its Concord (N.C.) optical fiber manufacturing facility as a result of volume growth in the optical fiber market, which has been greater than 15% over the past two years. In July, 2007, the company announced plans to expand its optical fiber manufacturing facility in China based on continued growth in that country's optical fiber market. The expansion is expected to be completed in 2009.

Fiber Optic Connector, Mechanical Splice Global Market Forecast

The global fiber optic connector and mechanical splice consumption last year (2006) was $1.396 billion. The consumption value will increase with strongly rising quantity growth partially offset by declining average prices. By the year 2011, the worldwide consumption value is forecasted to reach $3.451 billion.

North America led in global consumption with 47.3 percent or $660million in 2006. North American consumption will expand in value to $1.43 billion by 2011, as shown in Table 1.1.1. North American connector consumption will be driven by the proliferation of relatively shorter links used in private data and local loop networks. European fiber optic connector consumption, 21.2 percent in 2006, is led by the European Union member states as they transition to open competition in delivery of broadband services to business, as well as residential customers. The fastest growth in connector consumption will occur in Japan/Pacific Rim with a forecasted average annual growth rate of 25.5 percent (2006-2011). Rest of the World (including South America) region stimulated by favorable national economic policies and the trend toward telecom liberalization also has an impressive forecast of annual growth.

Customers agree: Fiber is good for you - Television companies lead satisfaction survey

Satellite and cable television services might have more formidable competition in telephone companies than they might have imagined, judging from customers' reactions.

A study scheduled for release Tuesday found that FiOS, the fiber-optic TV service from Verizon Communications, scored the highest on a recent customer-satisfaction survey.

Adding those who are very or somewhat satisfied with their current TV provider, FiOS scored 96%. DirecTV is second with 89%, then Dish Network with 82% and Comcast and AT&T U-verse, another fiber-optic service, tie at fourth with 73%. Cablers Cox, Cablevision, Time Warner and Charter, in that order, bring up the rear.

The survey of 1,586 consumers is from ChangeWave Research.

Run by Fox News personality Tobin Smith, ChangeWave draws on an alliance of 10,000 members who are wealthier than the general public and earlier adopters of new technology. ChangeWave surveys its alliance for the purpose of locating investable Wall Street trends.
About 4% of the alliance members are fiber-optic TV subscribers, 27% are satellite subscribers and the rest are cable customers.

"What's perhaps most striking is that none of the top players in terms of customer satisfaction are cable companies," the report indicated.

When grouped by type of service, only 13% of cable customers are "very satisfied" with their TV provider, compared with 32% of satellite customers and a hefty 45% of fiber-optic subscribers.

On the flip side, cable comes out last again, with 6% saying they are "very unsatisfied," compared with 2% for satellite and fiber-optic.

When "very satisfied" and "somewhat satisfied" are lumped together, cable is at 70% and satellite and fiber-optic tie at 85%.

"Satellite subscribers appear far more content with their TV service than cable subscribers," the report found. "Although based on a smaller sample, an impressive 85% of fiber subscribers gave the newest TV technology a thumbs-up."

Naturally, the survey sought to predict the future, a profitable endeavor if ChangeWave can call it correctly. It found that 13% of its alliance are considering a change, and 44% of those plan to switch to fiber-optic.

ChangeWave director of research Paul Carton calls that "a huge eight-point jump since the previous survey."

The survey found 40% of those planning to change their service provider will switch to satellite and only 15% will switch to cable, with the majority considering Comcast and Time Warner/Road Runner.

The findings, however, are contingent on the ability of the fiber-optic providers to expand their coverage fast enough to keep up with the demand, which is no small feat.

U-verse, which got a later start than FiOS, only has about 100,000 subscribers nationwide, mostly because its infrastructure is not built out much. But AT&T has said that it will spend $6.8 billion to build its network so that it will pass 18 million homes by the end of 2008. FiOS, which passed the 1 million subscriber mark in June, already topped 5 million homes and will pass 8 million by year's end.

From 2007-11, TV provided by phone companies in the U.S. will grow their subscriber ranks by 52.5% annually to 14 million. Cable will grow at less than 1% to 67.7 million and satellite will grow at 1.7% to 30.5 million.

"These findings are quite bullish for fiber-optic TV," Carton said of the ChangeWave survey. "Not all TV services are equal."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Verizon Shoots FiOS Infomercials

Telco Targets Comcast Markets With ‘My Home 2.0’

Verizon plans to hype its FiOS product this fall through infomercials modeled after reality shows such as ABC’s Extreme Makeover.

The telco said Wednesday that it will pick five Pennsylvania homes this month to wire with FiOS TV and FiOS Internet. The infomercial series, called, My Home 2.0, will bring “the world of high tech into the homes of regular families,” Verizon said. “Segments will feature an energetic trio of technology gurus dispatched to analyze each family’s particular situation, solve problems and set about transforming their lives through technology.”

Verizon said it will pick homes in the Philadelphia area, where Comcast is the incumbent operator.

It plans to begin filming Sept. 12 in the Bucks County community of Yardley, and will wrap up with a communitywide block party on Sept. 15 as the family’s home-technology makeover is unveiled.

Verizon said it will pick two other southeastern Pennsylvania homes for My Home 2.0, and that later this fall, it will select two Pittsburgh area homes for “technology makeovers” that will be used for the series.

The telco didn’t say which networks will carry the infomercials.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

U-verse growing rapidly

San Antonio-based telecommunications giant AT&T Inc. said it now has 100,000 subscribers to U-verse, the pay-TV service it rolled out to compete with cable rivals.

The company also said the copper and fiber-optic network over which it delivers video programming now passes 5 million households, 3 million shy of the 8 million it's projected to reach by the end of this year.

The new subscriber landmark comes about half a year after AT&T delayed its U-verse expansion to fix technical glitches that dogged early customers. The company ended last year with just 3,000 customers, most of them in its San Antonio launch market, leading some analysts to question whether it effectively could use the platform to reach customers nationwide.

"Since the end of last year, we've added 97,000 new customers, and we think that shows good progress," company spokesman Wes Warnock said. "We're very happy with where we are at this point."

This month, AT&T will begin expanding U-verse's interactive features to include games and the ability for customers to check stocks, weather and Yellow Pages listings via their TV remote, Warnock added. Dallas will be the first market where such features become available, and others will follow in coming weeks.

The company also plans to launch at least five additional high-definition channels in coming weeks, Warnock said.

"We think those interactive features are what help differentiate between us and cable," he said. "And this is just the beginning."

AT&T is eager to get into the video business as cable providers such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. have moved aggressively into the residential and business phone market. Both phone and cable companies are eager to lure customers with a so-called "triple play" of telecom services that includes phone, video and high-speed Internet service.

Rival phone company Verizon Communications Inc. is installing new fiber directly to customers' houses to deliver its video service called FiOS.

While standard phone service has become less profitable for telecom providers, Frost analyst Le Keough said consumers are spending more on other services such as broadband access and video. That increases the urgency for phone companies like AT&T to expand into video.

"Households spending on those services is increasing faster than the rate of inflation," Keough said. "If you can exploit that, it's a good market to be in."

U-verse's rollout delays and technical glitches last year touched off speculation that AT&T would seek another way to enter the video business — buying a satellite TV provider, for example. But analysts said the company's brisk and continued expansion has hushed much of that talk.

"The U-verse deployment sounds like it's actually starting in earnest," Keough said. "If they managed to fix their technical issues, the rest of the rollout should be successful."

Warnock said AT&T remains committed to U-verse and has worked through its technical issues. It has expanded the service market by market this year, reaching 30 metro areas, including Los Angeles, Houston and Milwaukee.

In May, AT&T said it will spend up to $1.4 billion more than planned to continue expanding U-verse. That boosts its projected cost to $6.5 billion by the end of 2008 from previous estimates of a little more than $5 billion.

What's more, in December the company will announce plans to expand U-verse into the Southern states served by phone company BellSouth Corp., which it bought this past year. That announcement, Warnock said, will expand its rollout beyond earlier projections that its network would pass 18 million homes by the end of 2008.

Sterlite launches optical fiber for tight radii

SEPTEMBER 4, 2007 — Sterlite Technologies Ltd. will launch BEND-LITE (E) single-mode optical fiber at ECOC 2007, Booth 17095. The fiber enables fiber to the home/premise (FTTx) with a small bending radius and cable mounting inside and outside premises.

It reportedly enables tighter routing and higher fiber density for component design and fiber deployment in central offices, subscriber equipment, backplane solutions, and premise wiring. BEND-LITE (E) suits triple-play voice, video, and data service networks and access network installations. It is designed for high resistance to additional losses, due to macro bending at 1310-, 1550-, and 1625-nm wavelengths.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ciena Swings to Profit

Boosted by strong sales and gross margins, Ciena realized a profit and beat analysts' expectations in its fiscal third quarter.

For the quarter ended July 31, 2007, the optical vendor reported earnings of $28.3 million, or 29 cents a share, on revenues of $205 million. That compares with a loss of $4.3 million, or 5 cents per share, on sales of $137.8 million in the year-ago quarter.

Ciena's revenues grew 5.9 percent sequentially and 34.4 percent year over year, beating Wall Street expectations. Analysts expected quarterly sales of $203.25 million, according to Thompson Financial.

The company also posted strong margins for the quarter, with overall gross margins at 47.7 percent and product gross margins of 53.7 percent. That compares with Wall Street estimates of 44.5 percent.

Excluding certain one-time and non-cash items, the company reported third-quarter earnings of $40 million, or 41 cents per share. That beat analyst expectations for profits of 31 cents per share.

Ciena's third-quarter 2006 results included a restructuring charge of $11 million. Excluding one-time charges, earnings were $20.6 million, or 23 cents per share, in the previous year's third quarter.

Ciena's earnings come in the wake of a number of customer wins in the quarter and continued strong business from existing customers. Earlier in the quarter, the company touted customer wins at JANET ("the UK's education and research network") and AboveNet Inc., and talked up business that it had won at BT Group plc as part of that company's 21CN project.

Ciena's fiscal third quarter marks continued momentum for the company, which has posted 14 quarters of sequential revenue growth. The company's stock has responded to that growth, rising nearly 40 percent year-to-date.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

FTTT - Fiber to the Tundra

Fiber optic projects in the works

COMPETITION: GCI, ACS reveal network expansion plans.

Two rival telecom companies based in Anchorage are launching multimillion-dollar fiber-optic projects this year.

General Communication Inc. officials announced Wednesday that they plan to build a $30 million fiber-optic network in Southeast Alaska, connecting Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Angoon and Sitka, and laying a second GCI fiber link to Juneau.

In April, Alaska Communications Systems announced its own fiber optic project, linking Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, with startup costs of $75 million to $90 million. This month, ACS launched a marine survey to find potential routes between Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula, progressing south to the Panhandle, and terminating somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

GCI's project could be completed in November 2008, and ACS's project would be finished in early 2009, according to the companies.

GCI already owns two of the three fiber-optic networks linking Alaska to the Lower 48. As yet, ACS doesn't own a fiber-optic network running from Alaska to the Lower 48.

Fiber-optic cables can carry enormous volumes of long-distance phone, Internet and other data traffic. Fiber cables were laid across the globe in the 1990s, contributing to the rapid growth of Internet use since then.

Residents in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka and Angoon do not have access to a fiber-optic network, according to GCI. The new fiber-optic link to the small Southeast towns will speed up their Internet connections, increase the number of cable and HD TV cable stations available, and reduce outages, said GCI public affairs specialist Sydney Morgan.

GCI is working on getting state and federal permits, as well as a Federal Communications Commission license, for its project.

In late July, ACS officials told their investors that fiber optic to the Lower 48 will make the company more competitive.

180 Connect secures FTTH contracts in Western U.S.

AUGUST 29, 2007 -- 180 Connect Inc., provider of installation, integration, and fulfillment services to the home entertainment, communication, and home integration service industries, has been awarded contracts to develop fiber-to-the-home and municipal fiber networks for the City of Palo Alto, CA, and the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, CA. These projects, combined with the company's City of Ontario, CA, project, represent the largest fiber deployment to residential communities in the Western U.S., say 180 Connect representatives.

City of Palo Alto, CA

180 Network Services has been awarded by the City of Palo Alto, CA, a contract to begin the development of a municipal fiber network, which is expected to bring fiber-optic lines to every home and business in the City of Palo Alto, representing over 31,000 homes and businesses.

The project is expected to begin in the first quarter ofI2008 with a term of five years, creating a significant projected revenue backlog, reports the company. 180 Connect says it has initiated the process of business planning for the project and is currently reviewing the assets of the City of Palo Alto that will be used in the construction and financing of other projects.

Truckee Donner Public Utility District (PUD), CA

180 Network Services has also been selected by the Truckee Donner Public Utility District to begin the planning process for a new FTTH development and municipal fiber network that will provide high-speed broadband service to over 15,000 homes and business throughout the municipality. The current estimated value of this project is in excess of $15.5 million, says 180 Connect.

"Our municipal fiber optic projects in Boise, ID; Ontario, [CA]; and Shafter, CA continue to deliver exceptional margins as well as showcase our capabilities to future customers," notes Peter Giacalone, president and CEO of 180 Connect Inc. "The City of Palo Alto and the Truckee Donner Public Utility District are expected to more than double annual revenues in our 180 Network Services business and represent our continued success in diversifying our earnings base into the commercial marketplace, while leveraging our existing strengths," he adds. "180 Network Services has, in a very short period of time, become highly recognized as providing a single source, total integration solution for fiber-to-the-home projects to both our municipal and private developer customers."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Angry? Don't take it out on the Fiber Optics

Internet service providers in the U.S. experienced a service slowdown Monday after fiber-optic cables near Cleveland were apparently sabotaged by gunfire.

TeliaSonera AB, which lost the northern leg of its U.S. network to the cut, said that the outage began around 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday night. When technicians pulled up the affected cable, it appeared to have been shot. "Somebody had been shooting with a gun or a shotgun into the cable," said Anders Olausson, a TeliaSonera spokesman.

The damage affected a large span of cable, more than two-thirds of a mile [1.1 km] long, near Cleveland, TeliaSonera said.

The company declined to name the service provider whose lines had been cut, but a source familiar with the situation said the lines are owned by Level 3 Communications Inc. Level 3 could not be reached immediately for comment.

Cogent Communications Inc. warned that some customers may be experiencing disruptions because network lines had been cut somewhere between Montville, Ohio, and Cleveland. "Splice crews are currently doing preparation work on the new fiber cable before splicing begins to resolve the outage," Cogent said in a note to customers.

According to Keynote Systems Inc.'s Internet Pulse Report , Cogent was experiencing significant latency problems on Monday.

The outage caused headaches for Christopher McCoy, a system administrator for a Web hosting company in Atlanta. "This Telia outage is really causing a pain," he wrote in a blog posting. "Telia is one of my company’s main network providers, and explaining to your average Webmaster the details and specifics of a fiber break isn’t all that easy."

Bend Insensitive Fiber - Is it as good as it seems?

An interesting article from our friends at ADC. Making the argument that bend insensitive does not mean indestructable. To read it click here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Two top executives to leave merged Alcatel

The turbulent 10-month marriage between Alcatel of France and Lucent of the US on Wednesday claimed two senior victims with the departure of highly-regarded executives from the telecommunications equipment supplier.

Mike Quigley, the Australian once tipped to be chief executive of the French group, and Frank D'Amelio, the former Lucent executive who was put in charge of integrating the two companies, had both resigned, the company said.

Mr D'Amelio is leaving to become chief financial officer at Pfizer of the US, the world's largest drugmaker. Mr Quigley, who moved sideways to become head of science, technology and strategy after the Lucent merger put paid to his chief executive prospects, is returning to his native Australia.

Analysts said Mr Quigley's departure was not a surprise given the fact that he had lost to Lucent's Pat Russo for the chief executive role.

However, Mr D'Amelio's departure raised concerns with at least one analyst, given the problems the group has already encountered in integrating the French and US companies. Alcatel is struggling to implement a cost saving programme that will mean more than 12,000 job cuts worldwide. French unions are fiercely opposed to the plan and media reports have suggested that the programme will have to be revised significantly.

The group has also reported consistently disappointing results since the merger, and has been forced to cut prices significantly to retain clients.

One of the company's smaller suppliers told the Financial Times that meetings with Alcatel-Lucent teams had revealed deep confusion over who was in charge and unhappiness over how the merger was being conducted.

Pat Russo, the US-born Lucent boss who took over as chief executive last year, on Wednesday sought to play down the departures.

"We are well served with a strong bench of top executive talent that we can draw upon,'' she said.

Fiber in Sensing Application

FOX-TEK Expands Product Line Significantly with Micron Optics Agreement - System Integrator Status Adds New Sensing Capabilities
Wednesday August 22, 9:00 am ET

TORONTO, Aug. 22 /CNW Telbec/ - Fiber Optic Systems Technology, Inc. ("FOX-TEK"), a developer and manufacturer of patented non-intrusive sensing systems, today announced the signing of a System Integrator agreement with Atlanta-based Micron Optics, the world leader in Fiber Bragg Grating sensor technologies. FOX-TEK is now the only approved System Integrator for Micron Optics products in Canada.

Micron Optics is broadly recognized for the development of high quality sensing and telecom products based upon their own Fiber Bragg Grating technologies. "Micron Optics is definitely the leader in this particular area of fiber sensing and we are very pleased to be able to offer monitoring solutions for our customers based upon their products," said Dr. Don Morison, FOX-TEK's Vice President of Operations and Engineering. Dr Morison continued, "We will now be able to monitor areas of concern with up to several hundred point sensors and we can address a wider range of corrosion and deformation issues in the oil and gas sector. As FOX-TEK grows, we can apply this technology in the civil infrastructure sector to the health monitoring of bridges, dams, tunnels and for third party intrusion detection.

"Previously, we've successfully used Micron Optics systems in some of our R&D projects," said Dr. Essam Zaghloul, FOX-TEK president and CEO. "Now that we're a System Integrator, we can broaden our suite of solutions to help our clients in the petrochemical, oil and gas, and other areas realize cost savings in their integrity management programs."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

FTTDU - Fiber to the Down Under

While we in Australia await the deliberations of the government's expert panel on fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), other countries in the region are steadily building fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) access networks. Ovum's estimates are that by the end of 2009 there will be approximately 13.8 million FTTH subscribers globally, 82% of whom will reside in the Asia-Pacific region. FTTH activity in the region is concentrated in Japan, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan. In the US, Verizon is undertaking a high-profile campaign of installing FTTH for its fibre-optic service (FiOS) customers.

Is FTTH a possibility for Australia, specifically for the great Australian suburbs? Currently available public information suggests a cost of around $1,500 per household. This is probably more than twice the cost of an FTTN alternative, except where there are extensive civil works (as in new housing estates). Although the costs can be lower - in Taiwan, Chunghwa Telecom is planning to spend a little less than $1,000 per premise for fibre to about 1.8 million premises over the next five years - this is still a very large investment that requires a solid business case or clear policy objectives.

There are four main ways in which a major network upgrade can be justified: investment in national infrastructure; new services; operations cost savings; and competitive response.

The first - investment in national infrastructure - has recently been revived by the Australian Opposition and has received some attention. The ability to provide higher-speed broadband services should be a boost to national productivity. In the early years, there may be little to choose between FTTN and FTTH in terms of productivity: both could deliver 50Mbit/s downstream and 1-2Mbit/s upstream. But, eventually, if we all want the line rates currently delivered to office desktops - namely, 100-1,000 Mbit/s - then FTTH will be required. If government money is to be applied to the project, then the architecture should be future proof or easily upgradeable.

The second justification - new services - is usually about delivery of IPTV, the next generation of television with many new features. IPTV is a secondary issue in Australia, where cable TV is still immature. Higher-speed Internet access, though, is a potential generator of new revenues. Small-business producers of large volumes of digital content and online financial traders are among the users who would benefit from higher access speeds and who would be likely to pay more. However, one should not expect that incremental service revenues would be sufficient to justify FTTH over FTTN - the cost difference is just too great.

The third possible justification - operations costs savings - is a key consideration for some companies, such as Verizon. An influential report in the US from 2004 suggested that the US telcos could justify an aggressive rollout of FTTH based on operations costs savings and new service revenues. This has been taken up by FTTH advocates. It is certainly true that the network-related operations costs for FTTH are substantially less than for current copper networks and for FTTN networks. There is still little experience of optical terminations in the home and it is likely, for the first few years at least, that the maintenance of optical network units in homes will be a major cost. In short, the operations costs savings are not yet certain.

The fourth possibility - competitive response - is a major driver for the telcos in the US, because of competition from the cable TV operators. This is also an issue in Hong Kong and Japan, but not in Australia. Facilities-based competition in Australia is patchy at best, although some see Telstra's proposed FTTN programme as a pre-emptive strike against DSLAMs by alternative service providers in Telstra exchanges. Any significant rollout of FTTN or FTTH will require regulatory oversight - and perhaps intervention - to provide some form of equal access for alternative service providers. FTTH raises some major issues of how alternative service providers could differentiate their offerings on an incumbent's infrastructure. FTTN, on the other hand, permits sub-loop unbundling within its access possibilities.

It looks like many Australian suburbs will get FTTN over the next few years, but only a few newly built ones will get FTTH. Does this matter? Well, it certainly entrenches relatively high operations costs for the time being - perhaps for a generation, since major access network upgrades happen rarely. The additional costs will have to be paid for through retail prices. It may also eventually limit productivity growth if the predictions for bandwidth requirements of 100 Mbit/s per household or higher come true. An upgrade to FTTH in the next generation seems highly likely.

The government response would do well, then, to promote FTTH where it is cost justified, while supporting or accelerating the rollout of FTTN. A broader view of the issues, such as reduced road traffic through greater home working and remote delivery of health and education services, could start to close the cost gap between FTTN and FTTH. Could it close the gap completely? A rough estimate based on publicly available figures suggests the government would need to provide about $4.5 billion over 4-5 years for the first 4.5 million homes to have FTTH and perhaps another $6 billion later for the remaining 3 million homes. This is comparable to support for land transport in the federal budget (about $4 billion per annum) but the political will to do it is missing.

Leith Campbell is a Principal Consultant with Ovum Consulting in Melbourne. He was previously the CEO of the Australian Telecommunications Cooperative Research Centre.

Fiber Optics and Food - Coming to a Kitchen Near You.

Here's that final touch you've been looking for in the kitchen remodel war with the Joneses: efficient fiber optics (EFO), the "breakthrough in accent lighting technology," could be perfect for your undercounter needs.

You want green? This is the most efficient fiber optic lighting system in the world, according to developer Solon, Ohio based Energy Focus. "One 70 watt EFO lamp delivers the center beam candlepower of eight 50 watt Halogen lamps - replacing a total of 400 watts." The government agrees--it handed out $12.7 million in R&D support and awarded the company a 2007 DARPATech Small Business Innovation Research Award for Excellence.

DARPA calls it a breakthrough technology with the potential to innovate lighting systems across the Department of Defense. The Navy is currently testing Energy Focus technology on two ships at sea, where it expects to save 52,000 kWh a year on one ship alone.

The technology--a patented compound parabolic collector surrounding a 70-watt HID lamp connected to adjustable EFO fixtures via optically pure, U.S.-made, flexible fiber--gives your breakfast bar what retailers call the "power walk" look, without browning out the neighborhood.

These fixtures put out no heat (they're used to light ice sculptures), no IR and no UV, which means they're closet friendly--no fading.

And they're supposedly easy to specify. The fiber comes custom-cut from the factory; you simply plug the illuminator and the fixture into a phone jack-like wall outlet.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

FTTS - Fiber Through The Sewer

University of Aberdeen wired for broadband via the sewer

AUGUST 16, 2007 -- Following a deal with H2O Networks, the University of Aberdeen plans to welcome new and returning students with a new high-bandwidth Internet network at the start of the autumn term. H2O Network's Fibre Optical Cable Underground Sewer System or FS Focus System will provide the University of Aberdeen with a high-capacity link for the next 10 years, enabling students to access the internet in their bedrooms in University halls of residence, improving the overall student living experience and widening the choice of studying options available to students, say H2O Networks representatives.

"Making University life as rich as possible for our students is the main aim of everything we do," reports Garry Wardrope, network services manager at the University of Aberdeen. "When embarking on our 'Internet to room' project, we wanted a cost-effective method that would offer the kind of bandwidth students demand when researching for course projects or writing their dissertations."

"H2O's FS Focus System offers high bandwidth at a price model that makes sense," he adds. "This, coupled with the innovative nature of the 'fibre via the sewer' network, makes the overall H2O proposition an exciting one."

As existing networks become increasingly congested with more cable types, it has become difficult for network companies to find new pathways, say H2O Networks representatives. The company's new development allows universities to use the sewer network to set up their own secure IT and telecom network, rather than the traditional, disruptive method of digging up roads.

The deployment process is a least 80% faster than traditional methods, says the company, resulting in operational networks within weeks rather than months.

"While universities strive to provide students with the best learning environment possible, cost and pricing models will often dictate the choice made," notes Elfed Thomas, managing director of H2O Networks. "With our FS Focus System, we are offering high bandwidth via an environmentally friendly network, through a fixed low cost rental model. Our solution addresses all the issues affecting public sector purchasing decisions today," he contends.

Established in 2002, H2O Networks deploys dark fibre in the UK's waste water network to enable connectivity to those that have limited access.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Got Bandwidth?

Cable faces bandwidth crisis, says ABI Research

AUGUST 14, 2007 -- Escalating demand for bandwidth-hungry services such as HDTV and online gaming is gradually leading to a critical lack of capacity in cable operators' networks. Several solutions are available and, according to a study from ABI Research, collectively they will account for some $80 billion worldwide in investment over the next five years.

"Cable-TV operators trying to satisfy the increasing bandwidth demands of HDTV customers feel very much like the thrifty grocer who tried to cram ten pounds of potatoes into a five-pound bag," says vice president and research director Stan Schatt. "The increasing bandwidth demands on cable operators will soon reach crisis stage, yet this is a 'dirty little industry secret' that no one talks about."

Some of the solutions noted in the study -- such as rate shaping and expanding spectrum beyond 750 MHz -- have already been undertaken by some cable operators (particularly in the United States). However, a number of other options will come into play during the 2007-2012 forecast period, including spectrum upgrades coupled with node-splitting, switched digital video, PON overlay, MPEG-4 compression, and home gateway bandwidth management strategies, says ABI.

All these involve tradeoffs and balancing of cost versus benefit, and ABI asserts some are more applicable in certain circumstances than others. ABI says the best real-world approaches for particular operators may be determined using several cost models developed for its research: an ROI model, a Cost-Benefit model, and a Relative Cost model.

The ABI Research study, "Assessing CATV Bandwidth-Expansion Solutions," applies these models to the various ways of expanding the spectrum and bandwidth on video networks.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Traveling in Taiwan

This week I am in hot and humid Taipei. Sorry for the lack of news. There will be lots to post when I return.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Corning to expand Shanghai optical fiber manufacturing facility

Corning has announced plans to expand its optical fiber manufacturing facility in China. The company says the decision is based on continued growth in the China optical fiber market.

"The optical fiber market in China is expected to more than double in annual volume this decade driven by increasing need for the widespread deployment of high-speed, broadband optical communications networks," comments Martin J. Curran, senior vice president and general manager, Corning Optical Fiber. "The expansion of our Shanghai facility will ensure that we have adequate capacity to meet this opportunity and maintain our strong position in the China optical fiber market."

The expansion of Corning's Shanghai optical fiber manufacturing facility will begin immediately and is expected to be completed in 2009.

"For more than 20 years, as China's communications infrastructure evolved to fiber-optic networks, Corning has played an important role and provided technologically advanced optical fiber as the foundation of a large percentage of China's nationwide communications backbone," remarks Eric S. Musser, chief executive officer, Corning Greater China. "Today we are announcing another significant milestone which further strengthens Corning's commitment to produce the highest-quality optical fiber in this region."

Corning also manufactures optical fiber at its plant in Wilmington, North Carolina. The company also recently announced plans to partially open its optical fiber plant in Concord, North Carolina, due to continued growth in the worldwide optical fiber market.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Molex Buys Polymicro Tech

LISLE, Ill., July 26, 2007 -- Electronic components company Molex Inc. announced it has acquired Phoenix, Ariz.-based Polymicro Technologies LLC. Terms were not disclosed.

Polymicro makes silica capillary tubing and specialty optical fibers, optical fiber and capillary assemblies, discrete microcomponents and quartz optical fiber ferrules. It also provides initial product design, product & process development, prototyping and beta trials and volume production services for analytical, medical, aerospace, military, manufacturing, telecommunication and communication markets, with the potential for entry into the analytical, genomic and biotechnology markets, Molex said.

Polymicro has been in business since 1984 and employs approximately 100. It will operate as a subsidiary of Molex Inc. as part of its Global Integrated Products Div. A Molex spokesperson said all of Polymicro's work force will remain at its Phoenix facility and that its operations "will be business as usual."

Michael Nauman, president of the Molex division, said the acquisition will help boost its share of the global fiber-optic assemblies market.

Molex products include electrical and fiber optic interconnection products and systems, switches and integrated products. It has 65 plants in 20 countries.

CommScope Sees BrightPath for Cable FTTP

August 6, 2007

Commscope has emerged as the early leader in supplying cable operators with fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) solutions targeted at greenfields and low-density regions.

CommScope says it has deployed BrightPath, its FTTP solution, with three major cable operators, and has installations pending with another three MSOs.

The BrightPath system is billed for low-density areas or greenfields and new master communities, where developers may insist on FTTP because there's a perceived premium value assigned to homes attached to a strand of glass.

"So, in these cases, it is more about answering the call for FTTH from developers, and not about bandwidth," says CommScope's director of business development, David Morrocco.

The BrightPath system is designed to allow an operator to leverage its existing hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) plant. The platform consists of a special fiber node, supplied by Aurora Networks, and a home-side network interface unit (NIU) that converts signals from optical to electrical. Each subscriber is served by a single fiber drop, which transports 1550 nm down and 1310 nm in the reverse path. Up to 32 subscribers can be served on a single distribution fiber.

CommScope's manager of application engineering, Mark Vogel, calls BrightPath a "cyber version of an HFC plant."

The system is also made to be compatible with an operator's existing headends, cable modem termination systems, billing systems, cable modems, and digital set-tops.

"Operational systems and practices are unchanged, so headend and support personnel do not have to be retrained," Morrocco explains.

Although the economics can vary based on deployment densities, costs for installing BrightPath are within 20 percent of HFC new-builds, and about 50 percent better compared to the current PON-based scheme used by Verizon, according to CommScope.

In lower-density networks, Morrocco adds, BrightPath can cost less than HFC, because active electronics, save for the node, are eliminated.

Motorola and Scientific Atlanta have not announced any deployments or trial work with cable operators for their respective approaches. Alloptic, Inc., however, has gained some traction for its fiber-fed "MicroNode" system with operators such as Bend Broadband and Armstron Cable. Some Tier 1 MSOs are also exploring MicroNode deployments, according to Shane Eleniak, Alloptic's VP for marketing and business development.

Wave7 Optics is also approaching MSOs about deploying FTTP in targeted situations, but announcements have been few and far between. In 2006,CableOne teamed with Wave 7 to deploy an FTTP network serving a new 7,000-home area in Rio Rancho, N.M.

Morrocco says CommScope completed its first BrightPath deployment in August 2006. The company began shipping the system commercially about six months ago.

"We feel like we've hit the market in terms of having the right solution for cable operators," he says.

But CommScope is not disclosing names of its deployment and trial partners. According to multiple sources familiar with the system, however,Time Warner Cable, Bresnan Communications, CableOne , and Sunflower Broadband are among those giving BrightPath a look at some level.

Among that group, Sunflower Broadband, an operator based in Lawrence, Kan., is testing the BrightPath system in a neighborhood of about 40 to 50 homes.

Sunflower, which serves more than 30,000 subscribers, completed the installation near the end of July and is now conducting extensive tests of the FTTP platform, according to Patrick Knorr, the operator's general manager. Sunflower has been running fiber to businesses for nearly five years to deliver voice and high-speed Internet services, but has more recently started to ponder FTTP's potential in residential environments. Although home contractors may be insisting on FTTP in new developments, that's not the primary driver for Sunflower.

Sunflower, Knorr says, discovered that it makes more economic sense -- at least on paper -- to deploy FTTP in low-density, semi-rural areas, or to high-end homes on large lots, because plant and maintenance costs appear to be much lower than they are with HFC.

"I'd say we're 95 percent comfortable with what we're seeing," Knorr says of Sunflower's experience so far with BrightPath. The operator, he adds, is still ironing out some "minor" technology issues, including how Sunflower might provide backup power.

If BrightPath checks out, Sunflower may switch to that architecture for all greenfield construction and possibly use it to replace older plant in low-density areas. Knorr estimates that just 5 percent of Sunflower's plant, serving about 1 percent of its customer base, might fall into that category.

Knorr is also unconcerned if cable's involvement with FTTP in certain situations might create perceptions that HFC is in its waning days. In fact, he believes, as other MSOs do, that HFC has plenty of punch left.

While FTTP "is the next quantum leap forward, HFC is an extraordinarily powerful product that's embedded, and we've advanced that so it has [as much] capacity today as a fiber network. As time marches on, there will be a point, maybe 10 years from now, that we'll need fiber to meet customer needs."

And Sunflower isn't the only cable party to suggest that FTTP could play a part in the evolution of the HFC network. Last fall, a leaked "strategic assessment" from CableLabs titled Cable Response Alternatives To FTTP put forth the notion that it might be more economical for MSOs to take fiber all the way to the home… but not until node sizes reach below 125 homes passed. Today, plenty of HFC systems still operate node sizes of 500 or 250 homes.

Another indicator that FTTP will play a role in MSO strategies, either in greenfield pockets or as a longer-term evolutionary step, is the industry's recently created "RF Over Glass" study group, helmed by Time Warner Cable engineering exec Paul Brooks. That project, according to people familiar with it, is taking a closer look at the technology to determine whether it's necessary to take things to the next level and develop industry standards that aim to develop interoperability between vendors and drive down costs.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Bend it like, like Corning

This is an article from Fortune magazine about Corning's new bendable fiber I posted about previously here.

(Fortune Magazine) -- Like any gigantic telecommunications company, Verizon is in love with optical fiber.

It likes that the super-skinny tubes of glass are lightweight and durable. It appreciates that fiber can carry phone calls over long distances without needing lots of gear to keep the signals moving along. But what Verizon really loves is the material's ability to transmit 25 trillion bits of data per second; that's the equivalent of 400 million simultaneous phone calls, or 450 channels of high-definition television. (That's about 3.6 million times the capacity of Verizon's copper phone lines, which can deliver seven million bits per second, tops.) And so Verizon, which wants to sell not just phone service but lightning-fast Internet connections and TV as well, is spending $23 billion to deploy 80,000 miles of fiber directly to as many as 18 million customers' homes.

But no love affair is perfect, and Verizon has one big quibble with those wonderful glass filaments: They can't be bent the way copper can. The problem isn't breakage: Optical fiber is very flexible. But light, which is how data and calls are transmitted in fiber, travels in a straight line. As long as the glass is kept taut, everything's wonderful. Bend it a little, however, and the light - and therefore the data - starts to escape. Wrap the strand in a tight coil, and you lose the signal entirely.

This intolerance for bending can make fiber optics a nightmare to install in someone's home. Snaking the wiring along the floorboards is out of the question - just one tight turn around the bookcase, and the signal is kaput. So Verizon's installers have been forced to come up with alternate routes, such as drilling holes in walls to get the cabling from one room to another. The process is time-consuming, expensive, and potentially destructive. The problem is particularly acute in apartment buildings - and there are a lot of those in Verizon's East Coast territory - which are full of conduits, shafts, and corners that must be navigated in order to hook up each customer. (In most single-family homes Verizon just needs to connect the fiber to a special box on the outside of the customer's house.) Fun fact: To get a fiber connection to a typical basement apartment, installers encounter an average of 12 right-angle turns.

Enter the brainiacs at Corning, a company best known to consumers for its sturdy cookware, a division it sold in 1998, and its Pyrex lab glass. Corning also happens to be the world's largest manufacturer of optical fiber (it is glass, after all), and when its executives learned that Verizon was planning to spend billions on the stuff, they sprang into problem-solving mode.

It turns out that Corning's researchers had been looking into developing new products specifically for fiber-to-the-home projects since 1998 - long before Verizon announced its fiber-optic service, known as FiOS. This year Corning completed work on a breakthrough fiber it is announcing this summer. The company gave Fortune an exclusive look at the technology, which has the potential to eliminate many of the challenges that have slowed fiber deployments worldwide.

"We're not always the fastest innovator, nor are we the cheapest," says Corning chairman and CEO Wendell P. Weeks. "So we have to solve big problems that really matter - and this is one of them." Many of its biggest advancements emanate from its upstate New York research center, Sullivan Park, a concrete and glass structure that looks more like an Eastern European housing project than a hotbed of innovation. And yet scientists there have invented everything from processes for making large LCD TV screens to lenses for the Hubble telescope and, now, highly bendable fiber.

Corning's researchers figured out a way to keep the light going as it turns corners - lots and lots of corners. We can't go too deep into the technical details - the company exhibits CIA-levels of paranoia about its inventions. But essentially Corning's technology infuses the cladding that surrounds the fiber's narrow core with microscopic guardrails called nanostructures. They help keep the light from seeping out of the fiber, even when it is wound around a pencil - treatment that normally would render it completely useless.

Like many innovations at Corning, the discovery of "bend insensitive" fiber was a combination of serendipity and determination. A group of scientists from different disciplines - chemist Dana Bookbinder, chemical engineer Pushkar Tandon, and optical scientist Ming-Jun Li - had been thinking independently about nanostructures in their fields. Bookbinder, a sociable chap who says he spends a lot of his time "b.s.-ing" with other scientists, realized they needed to collaborate. They began brainstorming on Friday afternoons, and by the summer of 2004 they had started experimenting with nanostructures in fiber.

At first they conducted experiments on their own initiative, with Bookbinder rewarding his colleagues with homemade chocolates for coming in on weekends to help cook up early versions of the fiber. He also encountered skeptics. "We had several physicists who rolled their eyes and said, 'This will never work,'?" Bookbinder recalls.

Corning's business executives were less disbelieving, and as soon as they got wind of the project in early 2006, they put it on the fast track for development. They even shared early findings with Verizon, which loves the idea.

"When you see somebody tie a fiber cable in a knot and it is still able to transmit a signal, you initially think, 'There's something not right with that,'?" says Paul Lacouture, the Verizon executive who has led its FiOS buildout. Lacouture (who announced his retirement in late June) says the company also is considering wireless technologies that could help it deliver broadband in apartments, but for now Verizon's money is on Corning and its bendable fiber.

Corning just needs to apply its innovation skills to the manufacturing process: The first spools of nanostructure fiber for commercial use have yet to roll out of Corning's factories. "When they have it," says Lacouture, "we're ready to use it."

Thursday, August 2, 2007


(WASHINGTON, DC) – Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan are the world leaders in the percentage of homes that receive broadband communications services over direct fiber optic connections, according to a new global ranking of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) market penetration issued jointly by the FTTH Councils of Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America.

According to this first ever official ranking of FTTH deployments in the world’s economies, 21.2 percent of homes in Hong Kong are wired with FTTH, followed by South Korea at 19.6 percent and Japan at 16.3 percent. Scandinavian countries occupy the next three positions, with Sweden having 7.2 percent of its households connected to FTTH, Denmark at 2.9 percent and Norway at 2.5 percent.

Taiwan, Italy, People’s Republic of China, The Netherlands and the United States round out the top 11 economies, with FTTH penetration rates of between 1.4 and 1 percent of households. Only economies with penetration of 1 percent or more were included in the ranking.

The three regional FTTH Councils joined together to create this first official global FTTH ranking in order to provide the telecommunications industry, governments and regulators with a unique snapshot of international fiber access penetration. Going forward, the councils will update and re-issue the rankings on an annual basis, as well as work jointly to further refine the research methods in order to provide more in-depth information.

Announcing the release of the global ranking at the FTTH Council Asia-Pacific’s Beijing Conference today, Shoichi Hanatani, President of the FTTH Council Asia-Pacific said, “For the first time we have a tool to monitor the transition that is now occurring around the world, from legacy copper loops to powerful new optical fiber access networks.”

The global ranking follows the unified definition of FTTH terms announced by the three councils last year, and which has formed the basis for recent market research by each council. For completeness and accuracy the ranking includes both FTTH and FTTB (fiber-to-the-building) figures, while copper-based broadband access technologies (DSL, FTT-Curb, FTT-Node) are not included.

“By pooling the data from three regional market studies, the compiled information completes a dedicated resource for global telecommunications professionals to compare industry research from different regions of the world, and open some eyes to the wider FTTH picture,” said Joeri Van Bogaert, President of the FTTH Council Europe. “This will be useful in monitoring the success of government and regulatory policy in supporting the historical transition to fiber-based broadband.”

“With this global ranking, it is now evident which countries are FTTH leaders and which are FTTH laggards,” said Joe Savage, President of the FTTH Council North America. “What is most interesting is how the leading economies in FTTH penetration are also those with clear public policies aimed at promoting deployment of next-generation broadband networks as a matter of strategic national importance.”

AT&T to offer TV service in N.C.

RALEIGH - AT&T will spend $350 million to offer television to North Carolina households, creating a major competitor for cable and satellite companies and a new choice for channel surfers.

The phone company's investment in the state over the next several years, announced Tuesday in Raleigh, will pay for fiber-optic network upgrades needed to transmit TV signals over phone lines. AT&T wants to sell bundled packages of phone, Internet, wireless and TV service, which could help reduce prices and spur more technology.

But AT&T officials were mum on some crucial details Tuesday, such as when the company will start selling TV service in North Carolina and how much it will cost.

"We're working on getting the network upgraded and will say more -- probably before the end of the year -- on timing," said Cynthia Marshall, president of AT&T North Carolina after a news conference at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. Ahead of that, "we don't want to give away too much to competitors," she said.

AT&T officials have said since last year that they are eager to get started. The company, which took over BellSouth's local phone business as part of its acquisition of that company last year, is losing its phone customers to rivals such as cable-TV companies.

AT&T began selling its U-Verse TV service months ago in Texas, California and other markets. The company has signed up 51,000 TV customers, up from 13,000 at the end of March.

"It's a nice situation for the consumer," said Elroy Jopling, a research director in Toronto for the Gartner research firm.

AT&T is a big company with deep pockets that can afford to break into the TV market. "The next few years will be kind of fun for TV viewers as they sit back, relax and decide who really wants their business," Jopling said.

Though some analysts question how the investment will play out for consumers, the industry thinks it is part of a competitive victory.

Phone companies "have spotted consumer demand for bundled services and are investing in the equipment to provide it," said Carole Woodward, chief executive of the N.C. Telecommunications Industry. The trade group was instrumental last year in persuading North Carolina lawmakers to pass new legislation.

In July 2006, after heavy lobbying, state lawmakers passed rules that made it easier for phone companies to offer TV service. The law, passed ostensibly to spur competition and investment, allows phone companies to get a statewide video license, rather than having to negotiate with multiple municipalities.

But even with the added competition, there might not be many new service offerings, analysts said. That's because AT&T isn't entering an underserved market so much as providing more of what is already being offered. If it doesn't, consumers will continue their exodus from traditional phone service to packages offered through Internet rivals and cable-TV providers such as Time Warner.

For now, "it's a defensive move to stop cable operators from getting people to switch over their services," said Vince Vittore, an analyst with Boston-based technology consulting firm Yankee Group.

Once AT&T has a better grasp on its network capabilities, it will likely announce slightly more competitive services, Vittore said.

Steve Notes: According to Wikipedia "AT&T U-verse is the brand name for a group of services provided over Internet Protocol (IP), including television service, Internet access, and eventually voice telephoneservice. The new services are carried on phone lines (or over fiber to the customer's premises), and are enabled by AT&T’s initiative to push fiber-optic lines closer to customers’ premises." To read more go to or