Calix-Occam Merger Portends Advances in Access Products

Russell Sharer, VP, Marketing, Occam

Russell Sharer, VP, Marketing, Occam

December 14, 2010 -With Calix expanding its reach with new fiber solutions drawing cable as well as telco customers, the firm’s acquisition of Occam Networks sets in motion a development agenda that could move markets on both sides of the telco-cable divide.

“The easy broadband problems have been solved,” says Russell Sharer, vice president of marketing at Occam. “It’s reaching the guys in the middle of nowhere that’s the biggest challenge.”

But there are other challenges that will be on the product roadmap of the new company as well. “It boils down to how to reach further, how to aggregate more efficiently [from access to core] and how to add more intelligence,” Sharer says.

While it’s too soon to disclose specific product projects, given the $171-million cash-and-stock deal has yet to close, Sharer spells out some of the specific needs the industry has in all three areas of development, which the new company is sure to address.

“One is the issue of ubiquity,” he says. “How do we get closer with fiber and better leverage the copper that’s in place? With innovations in signaling, powering, placement and packaging, it will be more economical to serve two, four or six customers [via copper from a fiber termination point] than it is now.”

Where fiber products are concerned, Sharer is a strong believer in switched Ethernet access over PON, reflecting his company’s core strength. While, presently, there’s about a 20 to 30 percent premium to be paid for serving the same number of customers via switched Ethernet as can be served via a 2.5-gigabit PON extension split over 32 or 64 customers, the costs will swing in switched Ethernet’s favor when the bandwidth limitations of the split 2.5 gigabit PON force service providers to contemplate installing 10 gigabit PON, he says.

As for network intelligence, service providers want to avoid being reduced to providers of “dumb pipe” service, Sharer notes. “We need to figure out what the legal parameters are under net neutrality for offering differentiated services,” he says. “But whether it’s providing bursts of more bandwidth for VOD or gaming or to add security for doctor consultations over the network, we need the intelligence to support value-added services.”

While the two companies have been arch competitors and there’s much overlap in their access products, they also have different strengths which, when combined, will produce a stronger portfolio of solutions, says Calix president and CEO Carl Russo. “By combining Occam Networks’ expertise in IP and Ethernet, Calix’s strength in fiber access, and both companies’ experience in copper access, we believe there is a clear opportunity to further enhance the Calix Unified Access portfolio, accelerate its future innovation, and enable greater broadband deployment by communications service providers globally,” Russo says.

Before new products are introduced, the companies will focus on integrating their products, which would require putting the Occam access platforms under the management capabilities of the Calix Management System. “Their CMS is more sophisticated than our management system,” Sharer acknowledges.

“We want to make the ONTs (optical network terminals used in PONs) interoperable so theirs can work on our blade product and vice versa,” he adds. “It will take time, but it will allow customers to do mixes and matches based on the best combination of solutions for a particular market.”

Calix has made clear it sees fiber access as the key opportunity, having recently introduced its E7-20 Ethernet Service Access Platform, which Kevin Pope, senior vice president of product development at Calix, characterizes as “the first access platform developed and optimized purely for this new all-video and all-fiber world.” The two terabit concentrator platform, mixing GPON passive network support with Active (switched) Ethernet and point-to-point gigabit Ethernet on the access side and multiple 10 gigE transport services on the network side, can support up to 480 dedicated AE subscribers or 5,120 GPON subscribers. It has sufficient headroom to accommodate more than 20,000 subscribers through the introduction of higher density and higher capacity line cards in the future, Pope says.