Adtran’s Stanton: Carriers’ transition to a true SDN open network architecture will happen over time

Adtran may be an advocate of helping its Tier 1 telco customers drive SDN and virtualization into their last mile networks, but the vendor is being realistic about the pace of this migration as one that won’t occur overnight.

Tom Stanton, CEO of Adtran, told investors during the company’s third-quarter earnings call that the adoption and implementation of virtualization in the access network is a challenging process that will be conducted over several years.

Tom Stanton, Adtran
Tom Stanton

“If you look at the current quasi-white box solution that we're shipping today and that we have in trials for NG-PON2, they're some of the most complicated products that we've ever developed,” Stanton said during the earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “Although they give you the capabilities of having a true SDN open network architecture, the elements themselves are still very complicated. I think that transition will happen over time.”

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The vendor noted that its SDN-based Mosaic Cloud platform is currently in stages of being deployed in nationwide networks with several domestic and international service providers, but Adtran could not cite any specific customers.

Given the complexity of implementing software elements into the access network, Stanton said service providers will target specific points in their network.

“Certain pieces like remote terminals, outside plant equipment, I think, is going to be much more difficult and may not prove to be cost-effective,” Stanton said. “So that's point one. Point two, our whole push has been, over the last 3.5 to 4 years, a drive towards adding software content to our portfolio and becoming more and more a leader not only in the space but in how we go to market.”

Stanton added that “our Mosaic Cloud Platform and our Mosaic OS are both key elements on us being able to transition more of the value-add that we bring to market, not just on having the lowest-cost product, commodity product or non-commodity product, but also on having the highest value-add software content.”

Regardless of these challenges, Adtran is seeing acceptance for its stand-alone SD-Access software platform.

Australia’s nbn named Adtran to assist with its fiber to the curb (FTTC) rollout in Australia. This contract covers software, hardware, and services, including commitments to support Australia's ongoing broadband network rollout.

As part of the agreement, Adtran IT specialists collaborated with nbn's IT team on a process to deploy the vendor’s multi-vendor distribution point unit (DPU) management platform, an element of ADTRAN's Software-Defined Access (SD-Access) approach.

"In what we're doing with our Australian carrier [customer] is [we are] managing elements,” Stanton said. “So, we're in there as a -- in a stand-alone fashion, managing other people's elements, and it's our software that's leading the way.”