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29 November 2022

Ciena boosts fiber access and software strategies with two acquisitions

By Wireless Watch Staff

Optical transport provider Ciena has been expanding its business in recent years, into broadband access and routing and into software-defined architectures. Now it has made two acquisitions to strengthen its play in distributed and virtualized networks – virtual edge software developer Benu Networks and Tibit, maker of passive optical network (PON) technology for FTTx.

“Individually and together, Tibit and Benu will complement Ciena’s existing portfolio of solutions for broadband access use cases, including residential broadband, enterprise business services, and fixed wireless access, which represent a significant addressable market for Ciena,” said the company in its statement. It will also gain over 60 new engineers with experience in access technologies.

The two deals show Ciena accelerating its expansion from metro and longhaul domains to the edge of the network. Benu, founded in 2010, is best-known for its software-defined edge network functions, which include a cloud-native broadband network gateway (BNG) with edge routing and subscriber management capabilities; a 5G access gateway function (AGF), which can support a converged core; and a carrier-grade network address translation (NAT) platform.

Benu had raised almost $90m from investors including Spring Lake Equity Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, Liberty Global Ventures and Comcast Ventures. Its customers include US cable operators Comcast, Cox and Mediacom, as well as Verizon, the UK’s Virgin Media O2 and Argentinian cable operator Telecentro.

The cloud-native BNG was shortlisted in an RFI issued by BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Vodafone last year, under the auspices of Telecom Infra Project (TIP) – alongside Altran, Casa Systems and RtBrick.

While the Benu deal is almost finalized, the acquisition of Tibit Communications should  be completed by the end of January 2023. Ciena has been an investor in Tibit since its initial funding in 2016 and the vendor is already its largest single shareholder. It will now pay $210m to take full control. Tibit has raised about $85m in total, including $30m in its most recent funding round, its third, in June. Other investors include Liberty Global, Swisscom Ventures, Intel Capital, Juniper Networks and Solasta Ventures.

Tibit has developed small PON transceiver modules that can be plugged into Ethernet switches to accelerate the process of deploying 10Gbps fiber access, compared to deploying traditional chassis-based FTTx systems.

The acquisitions support two of Ciena’s publicly stated growth strategies – to boost broadband business; and to expand in software, particularly following its acquisition of orchestration software provider BluePlanet and, last year, of AT&T’s virtual routing and switching unit. It now offers the Adaptive IP portfolio, which offers streamlined routing stacks that run on general purpose computers and can be combined with optical and with the Blue Planet tools.

In broadband, Ciena has been offering optical line terminal (OLT) and optical network terminal (ONT) products for several years, particularly targeting US cableco migrations to fiber. This strategy to move closer to the edge has made it Tibit’s largest customers.