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4 August 2016

Calix US bridgehead in G.fast with Sckipio chips at Windstream

The announcement this week from US operator Windstream, that it would experiment in a commercial pilot with bonded G.fast technology represents another win for chip vendor Sckipio in the G.fast market, as well as device partner Calix.

Windstream has only made a G.fast solution available for MDUs in the Lincoln, Nebraska region, where initially at least, the operator will deploy in two apartment complexes, reaching about 550 homes across 25 buildings, and then expand from there.

Talking to Michael Weissman, head of marketing at Sckipio, he said, “This is a landmark because it is the first publicly available G.fast implementation in the world and it is the 1st bonded version available, and that makes it the first to go over 1Gbps.” There have been a number of similar commercial trials, but none in the US, one in Japan with Nokia Alcatel, and another in Korea from South Korea Telecom, also in MDUs.

We spoke in May to Sckipio, which revealed that it was working on a way to make G.fast chips work with coaxial cable for US MDUs, but this was clearly with another operator. At the time AT&T spokesmen were also publicly discussing this as an option, using G.fast on coax without the need for crosstalk cancellation.

The Windstream installation is from the basement of an MDU up the existing two bonded twisted pair wires which Windstream says will exceed the real-world throughput of 1Gbps.

Weissman said, “We are getting 1 Gbps when the loop is under 100 meters, and bonded will get you 1.5 Gbps, and that means a downstream pipe of over 1 Gbps, plus upstream as well at a few hundred Mbps,” and he reminded us that cable technology seems stuck on an 80/20 rule of downstream to upstream capacity.

“Usually in telecoms the return on capital invested takes about 7 years, but with this technology and these performances we think this is more like 2 years, which is what is making the decision to go to G.fast irresistible,” Weissman added.

Windstream is deploying the Calix Axos platform, first launched in October last year, and will also use Calix’s GigaCenter solution for WiFi within these MDUs.

Weissman continued, “Modern operators map indigenous cable or fiber competition and then decide where to deploy G.fast and that’s why the first stop is Lincoln Nebraska, where it competes with DOCSIS delivered broadband from Time Warner Cable. Operators get lots of information from these commercial pilots – adoption patterns, firm costs, field engineering resourcing, that kind of thing and Windstream will make sure it has all these factors well defined before it deploys widely to the rest of its markets.”

Windstream operates in 21 states with infrastructure that passes 8 million people, but currently only has 1 million broadband lines deployed and this number has shrunk slightly over the past two quarters. It also has 350,000 pay TV customers, again sliding fractionally over the past few quarters. So it is important to Windstream to bolster its broadband speed.

At the Windstream results earlier this month, it claimed that 15% of its broadband base was offered speeds above 75 Mbps, a figure that is up from 10% a year ago. But it will have to roll out a combination of both fiber and G.fast rapidly, if it is to avoid further erosion of its broadband base.

Calix was originally a fiber to the home specialist, and that’s probably how it became a supplier to Windstream, which clearly asked it about G.fast where Calix has recently become more aggressive, against the likes of Adtran and Nokia Alcatel.

Weissman boasted that this deal was unlikely to be the last one announced in 2016 in the US, where he claims 20 trials including a number of tier one players. “Every telco in Canada will install G.fast,” he added, and a similar commercial trial has been seen from Bell Canada.

Outside the US there are also many trials and British Telecom in the UK is talking about installing some 10 million G.fast lines over 3 years.

When we asked about chip shipments Sckipio’s Weissmann said, “So far we have only shipped chips in the 1,000s, next year we expect this to be 8 figures” by which he means north of 10 million chips.

A Calix press release statement said, “Calix is moving aggressively into G.fast and has been shipping G.fast to commercial deployments for almost 6 months. We have customers using G.fast in MDUs all over the world.”