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Photonami Writes SONET to Operators

As video-on-demand forces cable operators to adopt more complex scaling and deployment strategies, they're also paying more attention to increasing the throughput of the cable plant.

And a handful of dense wave-division multiplexing players have cast their attention beyond the telecom space and toward cable by reworking their cheaper optical solutions for use by MSOs.

Much of cable's advanced architecture involves packet synchronous optical network (SONET) technology, said Richard Pearce, vice president of business development for Photonami, a new DWDM company. But Pearce said it's often difficult to scale those types of networks.

Cable companies continue to move down the Internet-protocol path, and adding "VOD has implications on the network that you build," he said.

Photonami has pushed an intelligent DWDM architecture that would be affordable for cable operators, according to Pearce. The core of that technology is a patented series comprised of an optical burst director, nodes and switches. The optical devices can provision on-demand bandwidth.

The optical burst director supports circuit and packet services, collects data at the point of presence and requests fiber optic capacity for optical burst links, he said. The director can handle up to 64 "user" ports.

The optical burst node aggregates traffic from the optical burst director to increase the node count. The node has anywhere from four to eight ports and houses full broadcast capabilities.

The optical burst switch switches traffic and handles signaling control throughout the network. It also contains four to eight ports.

A cable operator would likely deploy Photonami's optical technology between the headend and the node to improve bandwidth efficiency.

"We can allocate only when needed," said Pearce, by providing flexible circuits for bursty data traffic, for instance.


The devices can scale to 100 gigabits a second and deliver large numbers of optical layers to edge devices in within the network, Pearce said. The system is so fast, "we can't tune the tunable lasers fast enough," he said.

Pearce declined to disclose prices, but said the company's patented photonic components undercut the cost of Ethernet or 10 gigabit DWDM networks by 100 percent or more.

"Operators will be able to offer a new generation of services incrementally," Pearce said. "Service provisioning is very fast."

Those who need more wavelengths for bursty data traffic or heavy Saturday-night VOD or SVOD sessions can provision just the bandwidth they need within seconds.

"You don't have to overbuild your networks," Pearce said. "All the tools make it easy to deploy advanced services. The network adjusts to what it's being asked to do."

As an added benefit, the technology can be layered onto existing networks.

"There is no need to rip out existing SONET investments," Pearce said.

Pearce said Photonami plans a handful of trials with several cable and telephone providers in the second half of the year. "There's real interest," he said.