EPON suppliers await China's decision

Feb. 8, 2007
FEBRUARY 8, 2007 By Stephen Hardy -- While sources at the recent Fiber Optic Expo in Tokyo expressed confidence in their market position, at least one admits an EPON win in this immense market isn't a slam dunk.

FEBRUARY 8, 2007 By Stephen Hardy -- Having conquered Japan and invaded Korea, suppliers of EPON technology wait for major Chinese communications carriers such as China Telecom to decide between EPON and GPON for their expected optical access initiatives. While sources at the recent Fiber Optic Expo in Tokyo expressed confidence in their market position, at least one admits a win in this immense market isn't a slam dunk.

For example, Jack Lu, chief operating officer at Fiberxon (search for Fiberxon), which makes transceivers for both EPON and GPON, isn't quite sure that the EPON wave will sweep China. "Progress is being made in making a decision," he said at the show in response to a question regarding the timing of a technology choice. Both options have advantages, he says. For example, GPON has proven very popular incumbent carriers outside of Asia and carries the ITU-T stamp of approval. However, GPON components may not reach the desired level of maturity by the time Chinese carriers want to roll out their networks, he offered. There also will be a temptation to support the many Chinese EPON transceiver vendors. Lu reported that China Telecom has launched compatibility trials of ONUs from a variety of suppliers.

Meanwhile, American EPON chip vendor Teknovus (search for Teknovus) remains bullish about the Chinese opportunity. The company arrived at the show touting a pair of milestones, one technical, the other market related. The company's new Turbo chip -- designed to support 2.5-Gbit/sec downstream rates, thus matching GPON's top end -- served as the first point of pride. The chip is being used in systems Japanese carrier KDDI will deploy in its network. The market achievement came in Korea, where Teknovus customer Dongwon won an EPON supply contract from KT.

Greg Caltabiano, Teknovus president and CEO, and Julie Kunstler, vice president of business development, reported that the company is already seeing success in China. These deployments include nontraditional applications such as government and railroad surveillance networks. While individual surveillance cameras don't require a lot of bandwidth, the capacity requirements of networks with many cameras add up quickly, they said. Catalbiano and Kunstler also said that there has been interest from cable-TV multiple systems operators (MSOs) who need greater capacity for carrying triple-play services. Interest from MSOs is not limited to China, they added.

The ability to support quality-of-service requirements is essential for EPON success in carrier networks, they said, particularly where video is involved. The requirement for such expertise serves as a barrier to entry in terms of chip-level competition, the two executives asserted.