Deployment of broadband data piped over fiber into the home is moving ahead, according to the recently formed Fiber-to-the-Home Council. But cost remains a major obstacle that chipmakers could help surmount, the organization stressed.
The council, whose members include Alcatel, Corning, and Optical Solutions, said the telcos are beginning to warm to the idea of providing customers with 100Mbit/s data rates, but widescale deployment is still not imminent.
"The jury is still out. However, we're seeing small deployments, and trials are beginning," said Mark Klimek, director of marketing and business development at Alcatel USA Inc., Raleigh, N.C.
Consumers' great thirst for bandwidth in general will largely fuel demand for fiber optic data rate speed, said Jean-Christophe Deverines, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan in San Antonio. "Build it and the demand will be there," he said.
"The demand for 100Mbit/s data rates will not only be for entertainment but for other areas as well, such as video conferencing, and will also trigger new applications," Deverines said. "In fact, 90% of eventual applications for fiber to the home have not yet been invented."
But before mass-scale deployment is realized, a lot of work remains to be done on the component side, according to analysts. OEMs are looking to reduce costs by integrating a gateway processor that supports voice and video packet data, a DSP chip for analog voice data, and protocol interfaces in a single system for a passive optical network (PON) box comprising the fiber-to-the-home gateway. But so far, Klimek said, IC suppliers have failed to deliver.
"Right now there aren't [many] PON ICs out there, and I don't know of anyone with an integrated PON chipset," he said. "Agere has announced some of the receivers and transmitters, but there's no commercial PON chipset today. People are generally not making investments like they were a few years ago, but the chipmakers really need to get on board."
At issue is reducing the final cost of deployment in the home to less than $1,000, which is largely contingent on chipmakers' ability to offer the requisite integration to reduce BOM costs.
"The cost of the installation [of a PON home gateway box] is now $1,200 to $1,500 per home, but the magic price point is below $1,000," Klimek said. "In 2004, assuming that the industry can add innovation and integration to get the cost down, we'll begin to see some real volumes of this stuff."