1. Infonetics Sees Strong Growth for Copper-Based Ethernet Access Devices

    CEN Feature (Dec 4 2012)

    1. Infonetics Sees Strong Growth for Copper-Based Ethernet Access Devices

      Carrier Ethernet access devices (EADs) that use Ethernet-in-the-first mile (EFM) are the fastest growing of the three distinct EAD types, according to new research from Infonetics. EADs based on EFM deliver Carrier Ethernet service over one or more ordinary copper loops, supporting higher bandwidth than EADs that use one or more T-1 or E-1 links for Carrier Ethernet service delivery. While sales of TDM-based EADs declined during the first half of 2012 compared with the second half of 2011, sales of EFM-based EADs were the fastest growing of the three EAD categories, which also include fiber-based EADs.

      “Our interpretation is that carriers either will use EFM bonded [EADs] or they will use fiber,” said Infonetics Co-founder and Principal Analyst Michael Howard in an interview.

      Howard added, however, that Infonetics sees a “long tail” for TDM-based EADs, which will continue to be used for certain applications, such as when a customer location lacks fiber and is too far from a central office to be served over an EFM-based EAD.

      In comparison with fiber-based EADs, Howard attributes EFM-based EADs’ strong sales growth to technology advances. The performance of EFM-based EADs has been enhanced to a point where they can stand in for fiber-based EADs in a larger percentage of installations than in the past, he said.

      Not every Carrier Ethernet installation uses a dedicated EAD.  Some carriers opt to use routers for all Carrier Ethernet installations, even though not all of them require full router functionality, Howard explained. The reason, he said, is that some carriers want to simplify their product line or to make it easier to deliver additional service types to customers if customers’ needs change in the future.

      Howard declined to speculate which approach carriers are more likely to take or whether there has been a trend in either direction. He noted that EADs are experiencing a higher overall growth rate than routers, but added that not all routers are used to support Carrier Ethernet and Infonetics does not break out router sales by the types of services they support.

      EADs – like Carrier Ethernet in general – are undoubtedly benefitting from the boom in the use of Carrier Ethernet for mobile backhaul. But Howard noted that some major carriers – including AT&T and Verizon Wireless – prefer to use routers at cellsites.

      A less well recognized but growing opportunity for Carrier Ethernet and for EADs is to support DSL backhaul, Howard noted. Many DSLAMs initially were installed with multiple T-1 or T-3 connections for backhaul, he said, which means that “as DSL speeds go up, backhaul becomes a problem.”

      To address this, carriers increasingly are using EFM bonded copper for DSL backhaul, Howard said.

      I asked Howard if there was much of a replacement market for EADs and he said that they typically don’t wear out but may sometimes be replaced with later-generation equipment that offers enhanced performance. In addition to supporting higher speeds, some of the more recent EAD capabilities include remote management and easier provisioning, he said.

      Overall, he said he expects EADs to be around a long time.

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