Fiber Growth Shifts, but Trend Remains Upward



Earlier this week, I wrote a blog based on reports that the cable industry is in the process of expanding its already substantial use of fiber. The basic idea is that cable's hybrid fiber-coax approach dominated while the telcos were stuck with a copper-heavy network. Now that Verizon, AT&T and others have leap-frogged cable operators with fiber, the bloom is off the HFC rose.


On Wednesday, Infonetics Research provided further insight into just how the fiber market is evolving. The firm said one use of the material -- gigabit passive optional networks (GPONs) -- grew during the first quarter of 2008 compared to the last quarter of 2007. However, two other approaches, broadband passive optical networks and Ethernet passive optical networks (BPONs and EPONs) slipped, and the overall PON market receded by 3 percent to $417 million.


Though the total value of the market is down, the fact that GPON thrived may be evidence that the sector is experiencing growing pains. GPON is faster than the other approaches, so it is natural that it would thrive while the others struggled.


Light Reading's look at the PON market in 2008 forecasts growth. The press release says demand is rising and, because of intense competition, prices are shrinking. The writer mentions South Korea and Japan as two heavy sources of demand and suggests that wavelength division multiplex PON (WDM PON) and 10-Gigabit Ethernet PON (GePON) are approaches to watch. The release includes a rating of the top vendors and delineates what customers look for in a supplier.


Dittberner also took a look at the fiber market this month. It said FTTH shipments reached 1.9 million ports, an 11 percent quarterly and 33 percent year-over-year rise. The release points out, however, that the increases fell short of its predictions. The release describes how each subgroup -- such as GPON, BPON and GePON -- performed.


Demand is a given in all these reports, and a report released this week suggests why. The Baller Herbst Law Group says it would be prudent for the United States to make 100 Mbps of capacity available to users by 2012 and 1 Gbps by 2015.


That's a lot of bandwidth in a hurry. The rationale, as outlined by Ars Technica, is based on the fact that the United States is significantly behind other nations in average speeds, and that disparity is threatening to explode. The report writers compare the situation to the early development of electricity. In those days, communities considered electricity a key for municipal survival, and set up their own power utilities, if necessary. The firm says that the same thing could happen for advanced broadband and that public/private partnerships are the best approach. Tackling the problem will involve deploying a tremendous amount of fiber, no matter which entity owns it.