Back in the FTTH saddle!

By John Nixon 23/05/2011


jrbrdthumbI apologise to my readers for my absence of several weeks. Landing in hospital for major surgery isn’t much fun, but it is great to be back at work again.

Here are a few fibre-related items that I hope you find interesting:

PON Manufacturers finding it Tough

Some five years ago I completed a one week  engineering course with Alloptic Inc at their Livermore, California headquarters. At the end of the course, their very kind CEO Ric Johnson took me for a drive to the Napa Valley and pointed out the area where their main competitor was located. This was a company called Wave 7 and both were competing for the early FTTH business in the USA and beyond.

I subsequently learned that Wave 7 had been bought out by a Canadian company called Enablence. To their credit, Enablence did make their presence known in both Australia and New Zealand. Alloptic had placed their bets on the GEPON standard, which lost favour over time to GPON, at least in our part of the world. Enablence offered both GEPON and GPON solutions and had started making good commercial inroads in several countries outside of the USA and Canada.

Then recently I stumbled over a report “Enablence leaving FTTH Market” . I was quite amazed, as I’d recently had technical and commercial dealings with them. And although I’d had no recent contact with Alloptic, I wondered how they were going. When I checked out “www.alloptic.com” , I got a broken link message. I fear that they also are in trouble, if not closed. No amount of Googling brings any recent news of my old mentor!

Mind you, there are plenty of other PON suppliers out there: Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Ericsson, to name just a few. But it does show that the PON manufacturing business is no gold mine.

Feedback: My good friend Sanjay Gupta from Enablence asked me to confirm that the Trident 7 range of products will still be available and fully supported. Enablence is seeking to divest the division, not shut it down.

Pacific Fibre gets first big Customer (link)

I shuttle frequently between Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand has only one marine data cable linking it to the outside world. The owners of this cable are of course in a monopoly situation and data charges reflect that. Nobody seemed to want to invest in a second cable to provide competition and of course, redundancy. Then a few successful business guys here in New Zealand decided to take the risk, as it is a huge investment. They are not, as you would imagine, from the computer or telecommunications world, but just successful businessmen in various fields. This article confirms that the project is progressing. Good fortune to Pacific Fibre!

TelstraClear launches TV campaign attacking Crown fibre bill (link)

Those of us who live in Australia know Testra oh so well! Telstra is the old monopoly Telecom company that has never seemingly been able to adapt to competition demanded by both our Government and our current economic style.

Without exaggeration, Telstra is despised by many Australian clients and “ex-clients” who manage to break the bond.  Their client support is hideously complex and inefficient, they have farmed out most of their help-desk functions overseas, currently to the Philippines. When you call about a problem, you get this quasi-American accent asking how they can help you, but they are usually ineffective, even clueless. Within my own family and very close friends, we have menaced Testra with formal complaints to the Telco ombudsman after being without services for weeks at a time, without any resolution. You can literally spend hours on the phone getting kicked from one department to another, just totally inept and frustrating.

Telstra has a little brother called TelstraClear here in New Zealand. To get into the Kiwi market, they bought a company called Clear Communications, who owned New Zealand’s only two cable TV/data networks, located in Wellington and Christchurch. To their defense, they have apparently well maintained these small networks, and are updating to DOCSIS3 cable software (which combines fibre within part of the network), and which will extend the useful life of their networks for a few more years.

But honestly, to attack the New Zealand Government (via Crown Fibre Holdings, which is in a way New Zealand’s NBN Co), is very remiss indeed. Please read the article via the header link above. As always your comments and feedback are welcome!

Feedback: I’m told I have over-simplified the description of DOCSIS3, that there are hardware and software distinctions involved concerning return path etc.

IPTV versus RF over fibre

Again and again I encounter a kind of defacto conclusion that TV will naturally be delivered as IP packets over fibre on the downstream data wavelength. IP-centric engineers simply conclude that this is the right way to deliver broadcast TV programming.

The biggest single bandwidth hog is TV broadcasting. Its data bandwidth requirement is massive compared to almost all other applications.

There is a better, easier, cheaper and ITU-standard way of delivering all broadcast TV and Radio channels over fibre, and that is as native RF (Radio Frequency) on a third fibre wavelength of 1550 nm (nanometres).

This offloads the equivalent of several Gbps from the data channel and reduces quite massively the data network infrastructure capacity and cost.

Some people say “RF is old technology, it’s outdated, everything has to be IP today”.

Well this just displays their lack of any real comprehension concerning this excellent alternative to deliver broadcast TV over fibre.

And it’s not surprising that certain well-known PON vendors overtly, often viciously attack RF over Fibre. Why? Because they have no RF product to offer clients, and also by evincing RF, they will sell a lot more equipment to cope with the incredibly increased bandwidth demands over the data link. The data switching capacity of the delivered network must be much more powerful to provide the QOS (quality of service) that streaming HDTV requires.

There is a new “well advanced” super HD standard in the making, it has 4000 lines of horizontal resolution. What a magnificent picture, but what a huge bandwidth this is going to need as IPTV!

RF overlay TV over fibre (not to be confused with RFoG, the cable DOCSIS3 standard), is a brilliant low cost way of delivering broadcast TV on FTTH (be it SD, HD, 3D, “super” HD) without compromising the throughput of the fibre data link.

I have made a number of presentations on this subject during FTTH conferences, I’d be happy to send more information should you be interested.

Please email me at:  john.nixon@onefibre.com.