Fiber will remain a key element of next-generation communications, even as carriers plot their 5G and integrated network strategies, ADTRAN's chief financial officer told an investment conference in a wide-ranging conversation.
To build tomorrow's networks today, communication service providers must choose technologies that also allow them to incorporate existing legacy infrastructure -- without wasting that investment, ADTRAN CFO Roger Shannon told the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference last week. And that means using fiber as a backbone for wired and wireless connectivity, he said. (You can listen to the entire presentation here.)
Simultaneously, operators want to eliminate separate networks in favor of converged networks that are more efficient and simpler to run, maintain and upgrade, said Shannon. Technologies like 10Gbit/s PON and NG-PON2 empower that capability for early adopters such as Verizon, he said. (See NG-PON2: The Importance of Being Standard.)
"I think you're starting to see that come into fruition with conversations like Verizon is having and working with us on 10-gig PON and NG-PON2," Shannon said. "That 10-gig PON fiber network is ubiquitous in nature in that it would be able to serve business, consumer, wireless, backhaul, fixed-wireless access -- so it is an opportunity to get to that network convergence that has been talked about for so long."
That convergence may not happen as rapidly as some pundits predict, using ADTRAN's Mosaic cloud platform allows them to adopt white-box, open source, software-controlled networks while continuing to hook into legacy equipment, said Shannon.
"There will be a transition period where carriers are still utilizing their legacy networks while thinking about what path they're going to take to the next generation -- be it 5G, fixed wireless, 10-gig PON -- while still utilizing their current [systems] and moving to an SDN and Mosaic cloud platform... before you see an eventual transition and shift to that true open source, white box hardware layer with a cloud control aspect to it," he added.
All this focus on the future adds up: The partnership with Verizon means ADTRAN recently spent more on research and development, something the company predicts will continue as the project further evolves at a rapid clip, Shannon said.
"We see that for the next few quarters as this project really ramps and we start to see the significant components of the technical requirements and the different things we're being asked to address, some of which we're looking at a little sooner than what was originally anticipated," he said. "It all gets back to the point of what is the opportunity with 10-gig PON and NG-PON2... but that ubiquitous single network that has multi-dimensional utilization is driving that, from [Verizon's] perspective."
The 5G effect
The communications industry is abuzz about 5G, but that doesn't mean fiber is going away. And new technologies such as NG-PON2 are designed to bridge the two worlds, Shannon said.
"There's going to be a tremendous number of 5G small cells required because of, not only the carry distance of the signal, but the low-latency requirements and we believe the NG-PON2 product is ideally suited for that," he said. "The NG-PON2 product is basically a 40-gig access line where we use tunable optics to tune the color of the light into four 10-gig channels that go over the same line so you can have over-running the same fiber, the network for the backhaul, for business access, for consumer, for whatever, so that really lends itself very well."
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