Ericsson/Calix, ADTRAN prep for Verizon NG-PON2 finals

Having made the final round of Verizon's NG-PON2 selection process, ADTRAN (NASDAQ:ADTN) and a team of Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Calix (NYSE:CALX) will face off in lab trials of their offerings that they hope will lead to a hefty contract. Both competitors believe they are ready to meet Verizon's demands for scalability, interoperability, and flexibility (see "Verizon narrows NG-PON2 choices to Ericsson/Calix and ADTRAN").

Having made the final round of Verizon's NG-PON2 selection process, ADTRAN (NASDAQ:ADTN) and a team of Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Calix (NYSE:CALX) will face off in lab trials of their offerings that they hope will lead to a hefty contract. Both competitors believe they are ready to meet Verizon's demands for scalability, interoperability, and flexibility (see "Verizon narrows NG-PON2 choices to Ericsson/Calix and ADTRAN").

ADTRAN took a data center centric approach to the development of their offering, according to Robert Conger, associate vice president for cloud and portfolio strategy at the company. That means a hefty dose of software-defined networking (SDN), disaggregation, and open architecture design, Conger says.

This approach, combined with ADTRAN's background in supporting converged services in platforms such as the TA 5000, dovetailed well with Verizon's desire to carry business and residential services on the same network as well as enjoy interoperability between the NG-PON2 optical line terminal (OLT) and optical line terminals and optical network units (ONTs/ONUs) from multiple vendors, Conger explains. The company is "actively participating" in the development of Verizon's in-process open ONU management and control interface (OMCI) and already demonstrated the ability of their GPON OLT to work with ONTs for different vendors, he adds.

Conger says that ADTRAN has worked on the development of the necessary tunable optics for the ONTs/ONUs. He notes that standardization work on the channel bonding that would enable ONTs to support greater than 10-Gbps pipes is ongoing. That work is far enough along that channel bonding could be demonstrated today, he says.

Calix has already publicly demonstrated channel bonding, asserts Geoff Burke, senior director, corporate marketing, and Alan DiCicco, director, solutions marketing at the company. The company also has plenty of access network SDN expertise, embodied in its Access eXtensible Operating System (AXOS; see "Calix AXOS operating system aims for SDN-enabled access networks"). The company's offering therefore checks both the scalability and interoperability boxes, Burke says, pointing to the fact that the company is an editor on the Full Service Access Network (FSAN) 10-Gbps interoperability test plan (a role they also performed for GPON, Burke adds).

From the flexibility perspective, DiCicco points out that the tunable optics capabilities of NG-PON2 platforms such as theirs support a wide range of capabilities that Verizon could and will find useful. These include not only rapid fault recovery and load balancing, but hitless service upgrades as well.

Within the Ericsson/Calix partnership, Calix is the main source of NG-PON2 expertise. Ericsson will provide back office integration support as well as a range of network implementation services, Burke says. The partnership dates back to 2012, when Calix acquired Ericsson's PON business (see "Calix to buy Ericsson's FTTH product line"). The transaction included a partnership agreement that has borne fruit in other applications. Ericsson also has worked with Verizon in the past, Burke notes.

Hard work rewarded?

Taken individually, the fact that ADTRAN and Ericsson/Calix have progressed this far with Verizon isn't a surprise, says Julie Kunstler, a principal analyst at Ovum. Both companies have focused resources on next-generation PON in general and NG-PON2 in particular, she says (see "ADTRAN unveils NG-PON2 platform for 10G PON, TWDM PON" and "Calix offers NG-PON2 TWDM PON support"). "I think they've both been working hard at bringing down the cost of the optics, either themselves or in cooperation with optics vendors," she notes by way of example.

However, Kunstler expressed surprised that a larger company, such as Nokia, didn't make the cut as well. "I don't think we should assume that everyone else is out of the running completely," she adds. "Because it's hard for me to imagine that a larger vendor won't be involved at some point."

The upcoming lab trials will influence when – and perhaps if – such a point might arrive. For now, Verizon appears comfortable enough with their choice of potential suppliers to let them fight it out among themselves.

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