Overlapping with IBC in Amsterdam, the Fiber-to-the-Home show kicked into gear this week out in Las Vegas. And, timed to coincide with the event, Motorola announced that RST Communications has selected Motorola’s GPON technology for its fiber rollout in North and South Carolina. Although Motorola’s GPON deployments are stacking up, there’s a twist to this one that’s worth mentioning. In addition to standard voice, video, and data services, RST will be using its new fiber-to-the-home network to enable smart energy services. The green energy move will likely start with remote meter-reading to help consumers better monitor and control their home energy usage. It’s something we’ve seen WiMAX used for as well.
Verizon has launched a new Internet service tier with upstream speeds of 35 Mbps. Although it’s only available in a bundle with other services, the upstream speed on Verizon’s FTTH network dwarfs virtually anything else available in North America. The upstream marketing wars are heating up.
Consumers still aren’t hooked on upstream speeds the way they are on downstream, but it’s only a matter of time until that changes. Not only are HD video cameras multiplying, but expectations for sharing multimedia content are evolving and will continue to evolve. Home networking is on the rise, mobile broadband is increasingly popular, and cloud services are popping up everywhere. All of those factors mean that consumers expect to be able to move their digital stuff around and access it from anywhere. And that requires both downstream and upstream bandwidth.
Even as Verizon is touting higher upstream speeds now, cable operators have their own upstream offensive in the works. Back in October, Motorola announced a new upstream card for cablecos using the BSR 64000 CMTS. The RX48 card packs 48 upstream ports in the space of the 8 upstream ports available today, and when you bond those newly-available upstream channels together, upstream Internet speeds skyrocket. In addition, Motorola has been working with several operators to make use of a DOCSIS 2.0 upstream technology. S-CDMA, which is part of the DOCSIS 2.0 spec, can be used to clean up low-spectrum frequencies and increase upstream capacity by around 50%.
The 2009 FTTH Conference and Expo starts up next week with sessions covering everything from broadband stimulus proposals, to MDU delivery, to RFOG. I won’t be making the Houston trip, but Motorola will certainly be there. In fact, the first pre-show press release from Motorola went out yesterday – a GPON deal with Middleburgh Telephone Company outside of Albany New York.
Meanwhile, the FTTH Council has posted an interview (PDF link) with Verizon CTO Dick Lynch from earlier in the month that’s worth a read. Mr. Lynch is doing a keynote presentation at next week’s conference, and he elaborates somewhat in this article on what Verizon has planned for its FTTH networks in the future. There’s a focus on home network applications that certainly jives with other Verizon articles and posts I’ve read recently. No doubt we’ll hear more out of next week’s event.
The US isn’t the only region where the pay TV industry is undergoing massive change. Since I recently had the privilege of sitting down with a couple of the folks from Motorola’s Asia team, I thought I’d share these learnings on the pay TV market in China.
China’s cable market is growing in leaps and bounds, and several telecom operators have recently started running their first IPTV trials. However, the industry environment is still very different from what exists here in the states. For one thing, the market is heavily, heavily regulated. For another, cable and telecom companies have traditionally remained very distinct in their services. In other words, beyond small IPTV trials, there’s virtually no such thing as the triple play in China, at least not yet.
There are roughly 150-165 million consumers with cable subscriptions in China today. Early telecom IPTV trials, on the other hand, reach around 1-1.5 million subscribers. Aside from regulations, the difficulty here is the business model. Deploying fiber to the home for IPTV is expensive, and ARPU in Chinese cities is minuscule compared to the US. Still, there are operators who see it as an opportunity. Motorola can lend credence to that fact with the active discussions taking place now around Motorola’s IP set-tops and GPON access technology. Operators are interested in IPTV, and some are starting to act on that interest.
Meanwhile, the cable industry continues to move forward as well. Motorola reflects that growth in sales across the company’s entire cable portfolio: set-tops, VOD hardware, CMTS sales, cable modems, etc. And China’s own transition to digital cable is well underway. Today about 40 million cable subscribers are digital, with Chinese operators aiming for an all-digital footprint by 2015. All in all, China is an interesting and developing market to watch. There is a lot of growth and change ahead.
Typically the evolutionary path for broadband starts in the workplace and moves out to the home. Consumers moved from dial-up to high-speed because of expectations built at work. However, as evidence that sometimes the reverse is true, Motorola announced today a new solution for the enterprise – Motorola Passive Optical LAN – based on the same GPON technology used in consumer FTTH deployments. In fact, the solution uses the very same Optical Line Terminals and Optical Network Terminals that have been field-tested in consumer broadband deployments for years.
I’m still working to wrap my brain around Passive Optical LAN (POL), but here’s what I understand about how it reduces costs and simplifies the local area network. POL reduces hardware costs by eliminating the need for many costly workgroup switches. It reduces maintenance needs because there are fewer “active” components in the network (the “passive” part of PON). And it reduces installation costs because a single fiber optic cable will support four end users when attached to a Motorola ONT (no CAT5/CAT6 cable). The graphic above shows the differences between a typical LAN and a new POL architecture. Passive Optical LAN is an entirely different way to look at wiring the enterprise for IP voice, video, and data.
A few other notes from the press release: Motorola is demonstrating POL at the 2009 Interop Business and Technology Conference & Expo in Las Vegas today, and has also signed an agreement with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to act as a reseller of Motorola’s POL solutions in the global enterprise market. Stay tuned for more resources (fact sheets, white papers, etc.) which should be available online soon.
Amid all the talk about Verizon’s financial bet in choosing to deploy fiber to the home (FTTH), I thought I’d highlight another FTTH deployment, and why it’s been successful to date. Back in September, I posted about how a small telco called Hotwire Communications had chosen to use Motorola’s gigabit PON (GPON) technology for its FTTH networks along with Motorola MPEG-4 encoders and IP set-tops. Since then, the marketing team has put together a video case study that is well worth watching. I try not to post too many marketing materials, but this video has actual deployment details as well as an engineer’s perspective. It’s only three and a half minutes. Take a gander.
While I was caught up in Cable Show activities, a couple of news announcements of note hit the wire internationally. First, Motorola let drop that the company has deployed Taiwan’s first DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) with Taiwan Broadband Communications (TBC). The Asian market has been quite keen on D3 technology. Last year Motorola signed customers in both Korea and Japan.
Second, Motorola announced at Expo Canitec 2009 that its GPON and DOCSIS 3.0 solutions are ready for the Mexican market. The company has already deployed D3 gear in Brazil, but Mexico represents an entirely new opportunity. It will be interesting to watch how different broadband technologies (D3, PON, wireless, etc.) are utilized across Latin America in the coming years.
Meanwhile, DOCSIS 3.0 deployments stateside have continued apace. Analyst firm Pike and Fischer put a stake in the ground last month predicting we’ll have nearly 100% of homes passed with DOCSIS 3.0 here in the states by 2013.