By Stephen Hardy
Google’s plans to test open access FTTH could have a significant impact on government policy and service provider models.
Google’s announcement last month that it plans to test 1-Gbps open access FTTH networks led most optical industry participants to ask two questions: What’s Google’s game, and how can I play?
The search engine giant says its trials will focus on next-generation applications, new FTTH deployment techniques, and “openness and choice” via the open access business model.
The trials will take place in what Google called “a small number” of locations across the United States. The company has issued an RFI, which closes March 26, seeking communities interested in participating (see www.google.com/appserve/fiberrfi). “We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people,” the company said on its website.
Most observers took Google at its word that this is just an experiment and not the launch of a new line of business. Instead, these sources told Lightwave, Google hopes to demonstrate what can happen when you pair open access with a massive bandwidth pipe. A successful trial might further the goals of network neutrality boosters (such as Google)—and significantly affect telecom policy and service provision strategies.
“A successful, open-access model could cause the FCC to take a much closer look at past decisions regarding unbundling, such as the current Covad petition. Although current FTTH deployments would likely have a grandfather clause, future deployments could be mandated to support last-mile open access,” according to Teresa Mastrangelo, principal analyst and director of research at broadbandtrends.com (www.broadbandtrends.com). “Additionally, depending on the results of municipal participation with respect to duct access, right of way, pole attachments, etc., the FCC could set specific requirements to how this infrastructure could and should be shared—similar to rulings in France and other countries.”
Google’s equipment choice
Meanwhile, those in the business of supplying equipment have as much interest in how Google plans to build the networks as in the company’s motives.
Because of the bandwidth and open access targets, “Google will use Ethernet FTTH or Active Ethernet as the access technology for this network,” predicted Jeff Heynen, directing analyst, broadband and video, at Infonetics Research (www.infonetics.com) in an e-mail to Lightwave. “Equipment costs are comparable to GPON, though operational costs are higher due to the active electronics in the field. However, those costs will be a small price to pay to achieve speeds cable and telco operators can only dream of.”
Active Ethernet suppliers that bang on Google’s door can’t be certain of the response, however.
For example, Juan Vela, director, solutions marketing and strategy for Occam Networks (www.occamnetworks.com), says that Occam has already contacted Google. “We got the cordial call back saying, ‘Thank you, we know you’re out there.’ But that’s about as far as it went,” he recalls.
Vela is convinced his experience won’t be unique. “I think they’re going to go and just define a very basic switch device that becomes this OLT, and I think they’ve already done it themselves,” he says of Google.
However, Irit Gillath, vice president, product line management at Active Ethernet provider Telco Systems (www.telco.com), listed three reasons she is more hopeful that Google won’t go the do-it-yourself route. “The first is that a residential customer needs a highly reliable product....Second, the certification that a product has to go through in order to go inside homes is very strict. While these are all achievable, it will delay their time to market if they choose to design their own product,” she told Lightwave. “Third—and this would depend on their installation model—most US residential FTTH deployments utilize outdoor devices where the fiber CPE (or ONT) is located outside of the premises. Creating an outdoor solution (that will also be reliable) requires additional expertise and experience.”