An eventful year upcoming for FTTH
By Stephen Hardy
Higher-bandwidth systems will pair with more flexible infrastructure in 2010.
The upcoming year offers both promise and transition for FTTH deployments. In the U.S. we can expect broadband stimulus money to finally be spent on the one hand, and Verizon to finish the majority of its initial FTTH roll-outs on the other. Increasing broadband penetration is a high priority of many governments, while simultaneous discussions of network neutrality have traditional telcos threatening to pull back on investment.
The global economy hangs over all. If it improves, carrier capital expenditures should rise, consumers will be more likely to subscribe to FTTH-enabled services, and new housing developments should create more greenfield opportunities. If not, look for FTTH investments beyond those funded by broadband stimulus programs to slow.
While the amount of attention placed on cable multiple system operators (MSOs) will increase (see our MSO forecast on page 25), telcos, municipalities, and the occasional national government (g’day, Australia) will continue to drive the market. A variety of new technologies will be available to them in 2010.
On the electronics side, the advent of 10G PONs—EPON now and GPON upcoming—narrows the performance gap versus Active Ethernet. The question now is whether anyone is interested in this level of bandwidth so soon. Vendors in the space say there’s interest—but lab trial interest is probably greater than deployment interest through at least most of the year.
Meanwhile, focus will remain on driving cost out of optical network terminals and units (ONTs and ONUs). One continuing trend is the creation of termination units specific to different applications. Such optimization theoretically drives out cost by providing only the features necessary and obviating the need for carriers to customize a generic terminal themselves.
Speaking of which, vendors also can be expected to tout the idea that PONs aren’t just for voice, video, and data services (a point Active Ethernet suppliers don’t have to underscore). New services for home users will appear (home security and telemedicine are two options), while wireless backhaul will augment general business services.
Flexible FTTH cabling
On the physical plant side, expect the noise surrounding bend-insensitive fiber cabling to continue. Initially focused on multiple dwelling unit (MDU) applications—another overall FTTH hot button as carriers roll out into urban areas—such cabling can benefit other applications as well, its vendors have begun to suggest.
Meanwhile, fiber management should continue to become more modular, which will enable the same building blocks to be used in customizable ways. We’re also seeing products targeted at specific industries, as Corning Cable Systems (www.corningcablesystems.com) did with an MSO-specific offering.