Lumen gives MediaTek subsidiary Airoha a fiber foothold in the US

Airoha Technology, a subsidiary of semiconductor company MediaTek, made its U.S. debut as Lumen Technologies tapped the company to provide chips for CPE capable of supporting its 8 Gbps service tier.

Though Airoha did not name Lumen in a market announcement made Tuesday, the operator confirmed it is indeed the one working with the vendor.

Andrew Dugan, Lumen’s CTO, said in an emailed statement it is using Airoha’s technology to support customers on its symmetrical 8-gig service, which debuted in a trio of cities in August. “We want to lead the market with our XGS-PON network and electronic designs, and expand home networking equipment beyond what others are offering,” he wrote. “We are working with the right suppliers to help us push those boundaries.”

According to Airoha, its chipset is able to support not only 8 Gbps speeds over XGS-PON, but also latency under 3 milliseconds.

Lumen’s decision to use its kit for its multi-gig customers is an extension of an existing collaboration between the two companies which Airoha characterized as a two-phase project. Airoha said in its release it has spent the past two years working build trust with Lumen through the demonstration of its chips, software and services on GPON technology. The 8 Gbps partnership is the second step in its plan.

Dell’Oro Group VP Jeff Heynen told Fierce “for Airoha, this is a big win as I believe this will result in their first footprint in the North American market.” However, he added it’s not clear whether Lumen will use Airoha’s chips for all its XGS-PON service tiers, or just the 8 Gbps offering.

While fiber deployments have traditionally used separate optical network terminals (ONT) and Wi-Fi routers, Heynen noted “there is a trend towards more integrated units where the ONT is integrated into a gateway. Given the capabilities of the Airoha SoC (the EN7580 Series), it is likely the device used by Lumen will be an integrated unit.”

Heynen also flagged Airoha’s entry into the market as another move which could put pressure on Broadcom, which “has been the dominant SoC player in the North American market for a number of years” across both PON infrastructure and CPE.

Last month, MaxLinear took aim at Broadcom with its introduction of new AnyWAN chipsets which can be used in CPE compatible with 10G fiber, cable, copper, ethernet and 5G fixed wireless access. At the time, Heynen said MaxLinear was likely attempting to seize an opportunity presented by Broadcom’s year-long product lead times.