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DSL Prime
VDSL: Booming in Europe, Flat in U.S., Losing to Fiber in Asia
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 13:43

"VDSL Port Shipments Grow to Record" was the headline of Dell'oro's release (below), great news to report. Steve Nozik attributed the growth to multiple carriers in Europe upgrading: Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom, Belgacom, Swisscom and KPN Holland among them. All are seeing major losses to cable and feel they have no choice but to upgrade. Each is doing some fiber home and some DSL from cabinets. Nearly all the cabinents are VDSL, for much higher speeds at short reach.

      Asia on the other hand is seeing a drop off in VDSL, where most new builds are fiber all the way to the apartment. Until recently, half of Japan's "fiber to the home" actually terminated in the basement. 100 megabit VDSL went up to the apartment. Bendable fiber has lowered the fiber installation cost and little VDSL is being added. North America was mostly AT&T's U-Verse, which was flattish.

     The majority of ports are still expected to be ADSL - but given the lower price for ADSL, the revenues should be close to equal in 2012.

I've reported that John Stankey of AT&T says the U-Verse build will virtually end this year, so VDSL to North America won't grow. AT&T's enduser growth is likely to slow when the U-Verse build ends, Craig Moffett projects. The impact of that will more likely be 2013 than 2012, I believe, because bonding will allow 5M+ homes, already passed by U-Verse, to actually reach the solid 25 megabits the TV service is designed around.  

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 June 2011 11:37
AT&T Redoubling Outreach for Latino Employees
Thursday, 12 May 2011 23:26

Alicia_AbellaAT&T is right to highlight their Latino executives. "Alicia Abella PhD, executive director, AT&T Labs, gave the commencement address at the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering on May 6, 2011. ...Thaddeus Arroyo, chief information officer, has been named to Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology’s 2011 Most Influential in Technology list ...  Carmen Nava, senior vice president, Consumer, has been listed in Hispanic Business magazine was as a finalist for the Hispanic Business Woman of the Year award." The Bells have long been known for hiring groups shunned by some other companies. AT&T calculates that 12% of their workforce is Latino, and the quotes are from a press release encouraging more Latinos to apply for jobs. For decades, blacks have known they have a better chance of success at the telcos than at many other companies.

    Ralph de la Vega, born in Cuba, is president of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets and running much of the company from Atlanta, the old Cingular base. Ralph started with very little and rose to the top based on ability. He's an extraordinary executive who wrote a book, Obstacles Welcome, intended to inspire others. I reread it recently and noticed that in a plain spoken way there's a great deal of business wisdom passed on. It's definitely worth reading even if you're not part of the target group.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 00:00
Ericsson's Near Million Port DSLAM Quarter
Wednesday, 04 May 2011 15:04
A_different_EricssonEricsson reports a "Strong quarter for DSL as a result of VDSL2 upgrade and network modernization programs. In central offices, voice is migrating from Class 5 to softswitches while adding broadband via multi-service access nodes (MSANs), using a common IP uplink for both voice and mobile broadband traffic." That's up 85% over last year. Nearly all of the 885K ports shipped went to Europe, where several big carriers are running VDSL from field nodes.
      They are also finding some success with GPON in China. China Telecom and China Unicom, formerly EPON shops, are doing significant quantities of GPON. China Mobile/Tietong, until now a very small factor in landlines, is beginning major GPON investments. Ericsson told me 18 months ago they could bring GPON prices into striking range of EPON, which has been selling in million quantities for under $100/home. The orders are now coming in, with most of the >10K ports of GPON going to Asia.
      I hope the other companies making market share claims follow Ericsson's example and supply actual numbers rather than vague claims. http://bit.ly/kwyrTM

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 May 2011 19:15
1.5M March at China Telecom; 6M China Quarter
Wednesday, 20 April 2011 18:20
China_Telecom_posterIn March, China Telecom added 1,470,000 new broadband subscribers. The total for the quarter at China Telecom was 3.4M adds to 67M. U.S. net adds for the year 2010 were also about 3.4M. China Unicom/Netcom added 2.5M to 50M.
     An increasing percentage of broadband at both companies is fiber home and from the basement, but neither breaks out how much is DSL and how much fiber. GPON is now part of the mix, although EPON figures are probably still higher. Anyone who has data, please share.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 02:56
DSL "Amplifier" Delivers 8 Meg 14,000 Feet
Thursday, 14 April 2011 19:34

Actelis_broadband_acceleratorsYour mileage will almost certainly differ, but one lucky home saw their speed go from 1 megabit downstream to 8 megabits. More typical is a doubling from perhaps 1 meg to perhaps 2 meg. The current unit is aimed ay low speeds beyond 12,000 feet. It's logical for Actelis to also offer units designed to bring 2-3 megabit lines up to the new FCC broadband definition of 4 megabits.

     Essentially, you plug in a small box around the middle of the line and let it do some magic. It's sized for 1, 2, 5, 25 or more lines and works off the phone line power. Once installed, it's designed to work indefinitely without maintenance. There's little opex after the initial installation and pole-climbing. The components are inexpensive, so the price of the unit itself can be very reasonable if purchased in large quantities.

    Actelis purchased the product IP of Phylogy’s Triplestream, line conditioner/amplifier which has been on the market since 2005. They tweaked the product to reduce interference and are re-launching it as the "Actelis Broadband Accelerator." "We've solved the spectral compatibility problem," Actelis' Eric Vallone tells me. "That's our secret sauce. Most customers getting 1 meg will see a 100% improvement."

    The earlier design has sold over 100,000 lines, many in South America. There are plenty of places this can be very helpful, even if it's not ideal everywhere. Earlier distributor Charles Industries has an excellent 15 page product brief with installation and troubleshooting advice. 

    The first version of this story said "The unit is polarity-sensitive. Don't plug it in backwards." But Vallone writes me the new model has minimized the problem.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 April 2011 22:17
Telefonica Losing DSL Customers, DOCSIS Gaining in Spain
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 19:29

Spanish_broadband_sharesTelefonica totally dominated Spanish broadband until a few years ago but actually lost 23K DSL customers in February. Since January 2010, alternative carriers have added 667K while Telefonica gained only 138K. The cause is no mystery; the CMT finally revised the unbundling rules to give the competitors a better deal.

    In the first four months after launching 30 meg and 50 meg DOCSIS 4.0, Ono Cable signed up 128K subscribers (bandaancha.eu.) Some were upgrades of existing customers, but Ono has net adds of 65K since last September and Telefonica only 13K. Ono, like Numericable in France and Virgin in Britain, has severe financial constraints and is limited in how effectively it can compete.

       Spain is finally getting some fiber home. 9,000 signed up in January and February, to a total of 66K. Telefonica has made some extravagant promises to fiber the country, including all of Madrid in a few years. The actual build is much slower as Telefonica has diverted investment funds to the faster growing - and more competitive - markets in Latin America. 

       Before we praise CMT, the Spanish regulator, they need to explain why they want to raise the access charge by 7 percent, to €8.32 a month. (NYT) If regulators want fiber, the right move is obviously to reduce the return on copper. Matthias Kurth got that one right, cutting Germany's access charges.

    Update 14 April Telefonica presented to investors a dismal prospect for its business in Spain and up to 6,000 layoffs. That's one way to make the numbers work for a few years but only a temporary solution. 

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 April 2011 17:22
"Is DSL finally dying?" No!
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 17:11

grim_reaper_eyehook.comJeff Heynan at Infonetics reported a double-digit drop in DSL equipment sales, inspiring Dan O'Shea at Telephony to headline "Is DSL Finally Dying?" Both note that DSL sales in Q1 were actually ahead of the same month last year. Yet Dan writes "Fiber is the future." Given that less than 30% of the U.S. is likely to be served by fiber this decade, that's quite a statement. Europe's figure is similar. There's little reason to expect much change next decade, as wireless gets increasingly central. John Cioffi was told to forget about DSL in 1990 because "fiber was the future." I think I remember John say "fiber is the future and it always will be." But DSL is the present for the vast majority of North America outside of Verizon territory. Europe varies by country, but DSL is likely more common than fiber across the continent for at least another decade.

     Heynan does report one crucial trend: more and more PON going into China.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 June 2011 19:34
Reliability is Job #1: ASSIA Upgrades Espresse DSM
Thursday, 12 May 2011 15:53

In one minute, a tech in the field can get a full diagnostic across all the tones of a DSL signal, with instructions not to leave the home until it's fixed right. On the phone, a full diagnostic can run before a customer help call is assigned to a tech, directing true hardware problems to a tech able to work them rather than the first level support.

   ASSIA's new Expresse 2.3 reduces diagnostic inaccuracy from perhaps 20% to less than 10% and provides real time reporting for trouble shooting. That doesn't sound as exciting as doubling and quadrupling speed with bonding and vectoring, but is very much appreciated by managers needing to reducing operating expense. Reducing truck rolls and repeat visits yield enormous savings. 

    2.3 features a new, improved noise model; separate testing of each tone; ability to discover multiple bridge taps; and geocoding/binder management. I'm on the advisory board of ASSIA which means I see the internal data. It's working very well.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 08:11
$2B Tax Saving at AT&T, Verizon
Thursday, 21 April 2011 18:46

PenniesAT&T income tax expense went down 37% in Q1 2011 compared to the year before, from $2.863B to $1,802B. Verizon also saved $1B on a drop in income tax provision from $1,622B to $617B, 62%. At AT&T, the tax benefit was nearly a third of earnings and more than the entire growth in net. The same is true at Verizon. Neither reporters nor several wall street analysts referenced the tax savings, which were so large they change the story. 

     I'm not suggesting anything improper or special favors for either company. Each took $20B in losses on their pension funds, which could shelter a heck of a lot of income. This is just one more reason to tread lightly based on quarterly and even single year results.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 April 2011 23:33
Alcatel Takes Vectoring to Luxembourg
Tuesday, 19 April 2011 15:59
The green bands in the picture are the results in the first Alcatel_luxreported field trial of vectoring for noise cancellation. The results - on loops less than 1,000 meters - are excellent and as predicted by theory. Line speed as much as doubled in the instances noise was the problem. Other lines, which ran faster in the first place, saw gains as little as 20%. The first chart is from Alcatel, working with P&T Luxembourg. This is not production equipment and the chips may still be FPGA's. It's an important proof of concept, while manufacturers compete to be the first with well-tested, production ready gear (?2013.)

   Vectored noise cancellation is the grail of DSL, promising to add 50-100% to the performance on most loops under 1,000 meters. There's little doubt the results will be excellent in new builds, such as the VDSL/FTTN being installed from cabinets at British Telecom. All the lines can be connected to a single line card or otherwise organized to efficiently vector.

    The harder problem is using vectoring to increase speeds in mixed deployments, which includes most of those already in existence. Ikanos is working on "node-scale" vectoring, which works across line cards and is promising. Further Alcatel data, this time working with Swisscom, showed excellent lab results (below) even in mixed binders more typical of existing builds. Results were good, even with 5 ADSL2 lines in the same binder.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 04:16
"Honest Policy Wonks" Prevented Net Monopolies
Monday, 11 April 2011 22:26

Ray_Tomlinson“Honest policy wonks can play a very useful role,” Prof Shane Greenstein writes http://bit.ly/fA3w6G, explaining why the Internet wasn't monopolized when it went commercial. He goes on to make an important point, that the information superhighway metaphor is “misleading for policy aimed at economic growth through broadband.” Far too many “studies” have only looked at positive effects while ignoring the many negative ones. (Bookstores closing, teachers being laid off, newspapers dying.) Shane makes the provocative comment

“The Internet is everywhere but the economic payoff is not. Urban leadership dominates the geography of economics of the Internet, as it did computing." He adds "Physical capital is not evenly distributed. The Internet enhanced what was already working. Prior investment tended to concentrate in major cities. Skilled human capital abundant in cities. There are Marshallian externalities for IT specialists, who are more abundant in thick labor markets in major cities. The returns to investment depend on finding specialists." Therefore the "Returns to Internet investment are higher in cities. Especially during the first wave of investment."
Last Updated on Thursday, 30 June 2011 15:18
Nikos on Calix: Not Really a Sell
Tuesday, 05 April 2011 07:20
S___ happens. Nikos Theodosopoulos, probably the best equipment guy on Wall Street, did not issue a rare sell on Calix early this morning. His Tuesday morning email said just that, but clicking to the report itself shows his actual opinion is "Valuation: Maintain Buy Rating, Raising PT To $23 From $20." The report goes through several hands before it's sent, and somewhere along the line someone made a mistake. I'm sure they are scurrying at UBS to correct things but I wanted to put this out immediately to prevent confusion as the market opens.
        I'll follow up later today. Researching pointed me to a 58% increase in the Calix stock price in about four months. They've had some good news, but that's a remarkable run. I'll let Nikos tell professional investors whether to buy or sell this one; for anyone without a strong tolerance for losses, I wouldn't put money, long or short, in wireline telecom equipment. It's a tough and declining market, and there definitely will be losers as well as winners.
        Calix's greatest strength is satisfied customers. Thay've now bought Occam, which also has excellent customer relations. Those are strong positives, but it's a tough market for all and caution is indicated.
        1:30 Tuesday The stock fell over $25M by 11 in an up market. It since recovered some. The only other visible news was that Goldman raised their "12-month price target to $21 from $19 based on a target P/E multiple of 19X applied to our new FY12 EPS estimate of $1.11."(Benzinga.com) That pattern is consistent with people initially misunderstanding the UBS report and then learning better. Alternatively, it may be that investors were hoping for even more favorable news and were disappointed. Or it could just be the seemingly random noise that often dominates stock prices.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 April 2011 12:39
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