Fiber to Home Makes Alcatel Comeback

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Giant telecommunications vendor Alcatel Alsthom hasn't given up on fiber-to-the-curb technology, in fact the French company is pushing a fiber-to-the-user 7340 product line aimed at overbuilders, telephone companies, even cable operators in greenfield areas where video, voice and data traffic is expected to be heavy.

"We're extending our broadband access portfolio to include a total optical solution," said Mark Klimek, senior director of marketing and business development, for Alcatel's fiber-to-the-user program.

Typically, fiber-to-the-home technology has been cost prohibitive for both telcos and cable companies, running at $1,000 to $1,200 per home, or more. But Klimek said the costs of some optical components, such as lasers, receivers and splitters, have come down, while the cost to deploy advanced video, voice and data services over hybrid fiber coaxial plant, with more sophisticated technology "is not $500 to $600 anymore."

Additionally, FTTH can service business and residential applications, which increases the volume of traffic and revenue on the network, increasing FTTU's cost efficiency, he said.

Alcatel sees two markets for its new FTTU system, new housing developments and the overbuilder market. "For greenfield applications it's a wash between HFC [hybrid fiber-coaxial] and FTTU," Klimek said. He points to overbuilder WINFirst in Sacramento, Calif., where FTTU "is a cost-effective solution."

Although the number of "traditional" overbuilders has shrunk in the past year, Klimek said there's an active market among municipalities and local utilities. And he maintained the regional Bell operating companies continue to look at next generation technology that includes FTTU schemes.

BellSouth has tested FTTH and SBC Communications plans on doing the same, Klimek said. He added that FTTU is a natural evolution for Alcatel, which is a major supplier of digital subscriber line equipment to the telcos.

Alcatel's 7340 product line includes a packet optical line terminal, a home optical network terminal, video optical line terminal and access management system. The system utilizes passive optical networking technology. That technology, while considered promising, isn't widely deployed in either the cable or telco industries. Klimek said some MSOs are intrigued with the new technology and plan small trials in 2002.

Some new high-end housing developments actually require FTTH technology; that pits the local cable and telephone companies against each other. "These are the homes everybody wants," he said.

According to Klimek, the 7340 series' key difference over past technology is an added third optical fiber wavelength to handle video traffic exclusively. That wavelength also is designed to carry IP multicast traffic or Internet video streaming in addition to traditional cable video service.

The 7340 series also supports high-speed data with Ethernet or home networking, and traditional telephone service, either through voice over asynchronous transfer mode or voice-over-Internet protocol.

Alcatel is spearheading a new Fiber-to-the-Home Council to advance broadband to the home, Klimek said. Cable-related members include Alpha Technologies, Arris, Corning Inc. and CommScope Inc.

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