DZS, Nokia both claim FTTP tech bragging rights

  • Network operators around the world are investing in fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure
  • Most of the deployments are based on passive optical network (PON) equipment
  • Huawei replacement plans are fuelling some of the activity
  • Both DZS and Nokia have unveiled next-generation PON platforms
  • But can DZS be a big hitter in Europe?

As network operators around the world make and execute their plans to build future-proof wireless and fixed line access networks that will avoid the pain and cost of rip-and-replace investments, demand for software-upgradeable 5G mobile and multi-technology passive optical network (PON) broadband access systems is currently high and telco investments are significant, as analyst firm Dell’Oro noted in its review of the broadband equipment sector for the second quarter of this year. As a result, network equipment vendors are keener than ever to convince the telcos that they’ve developed the systems capable of meeting all their immediate and future networking needs and that can cope with any use case they could imagine. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing this week as the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network equipment vendors puff out their chests and claim to have best-in-class products that no-one else can match. 

DZS was first out of the traps with what it described as a “record-shattering” PON platform, the Velocity V6, which is designed for high-density locations and boasts up to 800Gbit/s of non-blocking switching capacity per port, according to the company. It is also capable of being upgraded from XGS-PON (10Gbit/s) symmetrical services to support 50Gbit/s and even 100Gbit/s services. The non-blocking attribute is important because it means the system is designed to be able to handle all ports concurrently at full capacity, even once upgraded for 100Gbit/s services. This makes it very suitable for bandwidth-hungry applications, such as ultra-high definition virtual, augmented or extended reality (VR, AR and XR). DZS, notably, claimed its platform is unique in being non-blocking, adding that other platforms have to reduce the number of active ports in use per unit as bandwidth capabilities are increased. 

The vendor said it already has demand from telcos for the 6RU (rack unit) system in Europe and Asia – and not just from operators looking to replace Huawei broadband equipment – and will start shipping the system in the first quarter of 2023. You can read the full details of the V6 in this DZS announcement

CEO of DZS Charlie Vogt, not known for being understated, was particularly bullish about the capabilities and potential of the V6 when he spoke with TelecomTV. 

“The V6 is very revolutionary. We’ve been going through a rapid upgrade cycle in recent years from DSL to GPON to XGS-PON,” and now “the Metaverse and new applications are coming online in the near future that will require massive amounts of capacity and bandwidth in the network to homes and businesses… What's exciting about this launch is that not a whole lot of companies have been innovating in OLT [optical line termination] technology,” he said, referring to the platforms that sit at the edge of the network from which the fibres run to ultimately connect end users. “I think a lot of companies have been harvesting what they have, leveraging what they have. And we poured a tonne of R&D and innovation into this next-generation platform that really is groundbreaking. There's no-one in the industry, from Huawei, to Nokia, to Calix, to Adtran, that has anything close to what we’ve developed,” boasted Vogt. He also claimed DZS is involved in “a significant number of Huawei replacement projects around the world” and is engaging with “an enormous number of utility companies that are leveraging their balance sheets to get into broadband services. So the timing is pretty exciting for us,” added the CEO.

And the DZS team didn’t think it’ll be long before operators will be needing to upgrade from their recently deployed 10Gbit/s XGS-PON ports. “Every time someone bets they have enough bandwidth, they have lost. That’s why we are bringing this product forward,” stated chief product officer Miguel Alonso. “The metaverse might not be everywhere yet, but I guarantee you that in a very short time, the 10Gbit/s services being deployed today will not be enough to carry 5G traffic, for example,” he added.  

The company claimed it has engaged with all the Tier 1 operators in Europe that have deployed Huawei OLTs and, without naming any names, Vogt said he expects the company to be announcing some Tier 1 wins for the V6 product within the next three to four months. 

So, a bullish position for a company that has traditionally done business in the US and Asia, reflecting the heritage of its founding companies (DZS was formerly Dasan Zhone, which formed when South Korean vendor Dasan Network Solutions and US broadband equipment firm Zhone Technologies merged in 2016). And we’ll come back to that…

But, of course, bold talk and a cutting-edge product are not enough to enable any company to waltz into a market and land a load of business, especially when there are well-entrenched rivals, such as Nokia, to contend with. Indeed, just as DZS was unveiling its V6, Nokia was itself bragging that it had developed the “most advanced fibre platform in the world” with its Lightspan MF-14. 

This new product, according to the vendor, provides “unmatched capacity, low latency, intelligence, six nines reliability and the highest power efficiency” available to network operators that want to use the same broadband network to support all manner of consumer, enterprise and wholesale services. “It is the highest capacity platform in the industry and the only solution ready for mass delivery of 25G, 50G and 100G PON services,” the company added. And by ready, Nokia means it is commercially available now and already being evaluated in the commercial network of US operator Frontier Communications. There’s plenty more information about the Lightspan MF-14 platform in this Nokia announcement

So the battle to soak up Huawei replacement business and provide the PON platforms that will support high-speed broadband services for years to come at the world’s largest network operators just intensified. 

The broadband access equipment sector is all about PON platforms these days, noted Omdia principal consultant of broadband access, Julie Kunstler, highlighting the significance of the DZS and Nokia announcements. “The FTTP market is booming and a variety of solutions are needed – large scale, small scale, indoor, edge, outdoor, and so on. PON is power efficient, fibre efficient [and] optics efficient, and those efficiencies remain at 25Gbit/s, 50Gbit/s or 100Gbit/s, so these announcements are important.”

Does DZS have what it takes to break into Europe in a meaningful way? “I see an opportunity for DZS in Europe if they invest more resources,” she added. “There is enough opportunity in Europe for Nokia, Adtran, and DZS, along with opportunities for the Chinese vendors, where allowed,” she said, making the important point that Huawei might not be flavour of the decade in certain countries, but it is still active in numerous markets with both large and small operators. 

And Kunstler’s argument about DZS improving its chances if it invests in “more resources” is also on the money (so to speak). To be successful, DZS is going to need to have local partners, support staff on the ground, and the ability to develop a trusted brand and lengthy relationships with multiple operators if it is to make serious headway and challenge the PON equipment incumbents in the region. Only Huawei, historically, has developed a major market share from scratch in the broadband access sector without engaging in significant M&A activity, and Huawei was able to do that because it invested massively over a period of many years. Can Vogt and his team buck the trend? We’re about to find out, it seems.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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