Teknovus and Furukawa introduced an SFP module that incorporates not just the optics for an ONU, but all of the electronics needed as well. That’s right, an entire FTTH ONU in a slightly oversized SFP. I call it “PON on a stick”, and I thought it was the most unique new product at OFC.
It’s evidence that some believe PON is destined to migrate from being a residential-only technology towards low cost connectivity for small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s). Even if point to point connectivity is used instead of PON, it’s still a very good idea. This approach collapses the entire Ethernet demarc functionality of a box like this or this into an SFP optical module.
For those who don’t know, SFP’s (Wikipedia link here) are optical modules which plug into networking equipment, allowing the data interfaces on a switch, router, PBX, etc. to be customized for different fiber environments and distance requirements.
If the BellCos or CableCos roll out fiber access for SME’s, I expect them to use this approach. Comcast has made public that their long term strategy is to attack the SME market, and a device like this gives them a clean hardware solution.
The module is technically remarkable. Teknovus silicon is highly integrated, allowing the entire solution to fit inside the confines of an SFP. Furukawa engineers were kind enough to show me the inside of the module (sorry, no photos allowed); the optical portion of it was a full custom implementation that was very impressive. Miniature R&D like this is what makes Japanese companies so impressive.
When NTT, Verizon, or future carriers install FTTH they provide a freestanding piece of equipment (the ONU) that is installed at the customer. It’s big and takes up a lot of space; it’s not ideal for cramped apartment or dense small business applications. A big plastic box with a power supply and multiple connectors is also inherently more expensive than a miniaturized SFP.
Having “PON on a Stick” opens up the possibility of eliminating the ONU box entirely, replacing it with this module, and inserting it into SFP capable networking equipment. Future network upgrades to higher PON speeds are straightforward as the carrier can simply swap out the module, perhaps by mailing it directly to the customer for self installation.
Small businesses can insert the SFP into existing gateway routers, servers, or IP-PBX equipment. Imagine a new tenant calling the carrier for an SFP, installing it in their own equipment, and connecting to the existing fiber. Simple. Minimal hardware and no truck rolls.
In both cases the Carrier minimizes it’s involvement in the hardware business, and has a compact, very low cost solution for service demarcation that the customer can self install in any equipment they wish. Pretty neat.