The availability of Gfast Amendment 3 chipsets and service providers' adoption of earlier Gfast solutions damaged sales of DSL equipment, a new report by Dell'Oro Group finds.
Between 2016 and 2017, DSL (digital subscriber line) equipment sales dropped 13% to $2.5 billion, Alam Tamboli, senior analyst at Dell'Oro Group, told Broadband World News.
In large part, operators are reviewing DSL and VDSL (very-high-bit DSL) solutions because of Gfast advances -- especially the advent of Gfast Amendment 3 chipsets that recently became available, he noted. Service providers are testing and trialing Gfast Amendment 3 and PON solutions, even though Gfast commercial availability is limited and not expected to become more widespread until next year, Tamboli said.
Green for go
Yet Gfast already sees growing implementation. Within the first few weeks of 2018, 33 telcos and ISPs are deploying or soon plan to implement Gfast, Point Topic found. Of these, 13 are now implementing Gfast within their internal networks and expect to launch them commercially within the next one to two years, the research firm found. (See Gfast Starts 2018 With a Bang.)
The list of service providers publicly sharing Gfast deployment plans continues to grow -- especially those adopting Gfast to serve multi-dwelling units (MDUs), where the technology is more cost-effective than fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). For MDUs, operators usually deploy fiber-to-the-basement (FTTB) or fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), and then use existing copper or coax to serve each individual unit.
But Gfast sales by vendors like Huawei to operators such as BT and Swisscom are only the beginning, said Dell'Oro's Tamboli. Gfast advances incorporated into Amendment 3, now under review by many providers, will spark a tsunami of demand, he said.
"There definitely have been sales beyond and from vendors other than Huawei, but so far it's been relatively immaterial," said Tamboli. "I believe once the higher frequencies (212 MHz) and higher port groupings (i.e., 48-port and 96-port) are successfully tested and trialed, this will change, especially at MDUs."
Amendment 3 chipsets are the catalyst to much broader Gfast adoption, agreed Simon Stanley, analyst-at-large at BBWN sister company Heavy Reading in a January report. Both Broadcom and Sckipio introduced second-generation Gfast DP chipsets with eight 106MHz Gfast ports, he wrote. Both generations of Broadcom Gfast chipsets support VDSL2 and ADSL, and some of the latest Gfast DP chipsets can support vectoring on up to 96 ports, noted Stanley.
Second-generation Gfast DP chipsets have been introduced by both Broadcom and Sckipio with eight 106MHz Gfast ports. Beyond the basic Gfast functionality there are significant differences in the support for 212MHz Gfast, vectoring and other features. Broadcom has a strong portfolio of DSL solutions and both generations of Broadcom Gfast chipsets also support VDSL2 and ADSL. Some of the latest Gfast DP chipsets can support vectoring on up to 96 ports, a significant improvement on first-generation chipsets.
"Gfast … does not remove the need for fiber deployment further into the access network, but it does enable gigabit broadband without fiber being installed over the last hundred meters into the customer premises," Stanley wrote in Light Reading. "The latest Gfast chipsets are being designed into a wide range of DP and CPE systems, which will allow network operators to start a significant rollout of Gfast during 2018 and into 2019."
Internal review = DSL delays
Within North America, CenturyLink's acquisition of Level 3 hurt DSL sales, Dell'Oro's 4Q17 Broadband Access Quarterly Report said. As CenturyLink cut spending during the integration period, it reviewed future technology deployment plans for the consolidated entity, said Tamboli. This impacted vendors such as ADTRAN and Calix, he added -- a comment supported by vendor executives.
"It is our understanding that this carrier is reviewing major capital programs and our vectoring program is part of this review," said ADTRAN CEO Tom Stanton during its 4Q earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "We have been told that this review would take approximately 60 days to 90 days and we expect our review to be complete in the first quarter 2018."
Other industry mergers and acquisitions have had less impact on DSL adoption, Tamboli said.
"CenturyLink's shift in demand isn't completely due to the normal pause in spending that's associated with big deals, but rather I believe CenturyLink is evaluating its broadband access strategy as some of the new management probably has a keen eye on the flat to down subscriber net-adds at CenturyLink in recent years," he added.
By all accounts, CenturyLink is close to ending its review period and soon will back up its post-merger plans with actions. No doubt they, along with every other service provider, are considering how symmetrical gigabit-speed Gfast fits into their infrastructures.
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