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

Fusion splicer targets industrial sector

Some non-telecom information for you. Large core fiber...

July 30, 2007 -- Fujikura Europe Ltd. has introduced a fusion splicer especially designed to support the increasing use of fiber-optic technology in industrial applications. With Large Diameter Fiber (LDF) splicing capability, the company says its new LDF series of products is able to splice all types of fiber currently available.

According to the company, the LDF product range, with a smaller footprint than products currently available in this market, can perform accurate, reliable splices using an arc fusion technique, thereby eliminating the need for external gas supply. A graphical user interface enables users to program the products' automated alignment system, reducing user error when splicing complex fibers, such as polarization maintaining fiber.

"Fiber-optic technology now underpins a vast number of industrial products and applications, from fiber laser manufacture to welding and cutting on car production lines, and biomedical processes such as laser eye surgery," comments Fernando Terceiro, splicer business team leader at Fujikura Europe. "To serve these markets effectively, splicers must be compact, cost-effective and user-friendly, as operators may have to work with different types of fiber, in many different environments, often without specific training or experience in fiber processing."

The company says the splicers are designed for OEMs, R&D establishments, the medical industry, automotive industry, fiber laser manufacturers and universities. The products are equipped with wide view cameras to focus on the whole image of the maximum diameter LDF, and employ a high power arc discharge unit, coupled with modified electrodes to withstand the high current. The splicers also include new attenuation modes for polarization maintaining fibers.

Fujikura's complete splicer portfolio will be on display at the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC) 2007, to be held September 17-19 at the Internationales Congress Centrum, Berlin.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Qwest Deploys New Optical Technology In Nationwide Network


Tulsa, OK - Qwest Communications International Inc. has announced upgrades to its nationwide fiber-optic network that quadruple broadband capacity for customers and triple geographic availability of ultra-high-speed services, claim Qwest representatives. When combined with Qwest's Metro Ethernet or Private Line services, the upgrade provides an end-to-end, cost-efficient, high-bandwidth connection delivering speeds scalable from 1 to 40 Gbits/sec, says the carrier.

Qwest says the upgrade of its national network to ultra-long-haul (ULH) technology, which is software configurable, already is benefiting businesses, government agencies, and wholesale customers by providing:

  • A dedicated broadband transport network without the capital investment and expense of owning and operating network infrastructure;
  • Full availability of ultra-high-speed services with access points in all major U.S. business centers and extensive global connectivity;
  • Faster service provisioning and increased agility with the ability to deploy, activate, reconfigure, and manage traffic remotely; and
  • The ability to aggregate and transport traffic over standard communications interfaces, including Ethernet and SONET.

"The spike in demand for bandwidth-intensive applications makes high-capacity, easily scalable connections vital for customers," explains Tom Richards, executive vice president of the Qwest business markets group. "This upgrade ensures Qwest will continue to provide customers the bandwidth and capabilities they need now and in the future over one of the most extensive, state-of-the-art networks in the world."

Qwest QWave services provided via the high-capacity ULH network offer customers a great alternative to purchasing or leasing dark fiber, says the carrier. Today businesses, including U.S. Bancorp and Telefonica, have chosen the enhanced QWave services enabled by the upgrade.

"Because Qwest's existing national network is a newer, high-performance, high-capacity network, the move to ULH has been fast, efficient, and relatively surgical from a capital investment standpoint," reports Pieter Poll, Qwest's chief technology officer. "We are simply upgrading existing fiber routes and expanding our nationwide points of presence." The ULH upgrade also supports continued scalability of Qwest IP services nationwide, and further augments ultra-high-bandwidth connectivity for customers to Qwest hosting centers, says the carrier.