STL brings SDN principles to fiber with programmable FTTX

STL sought to capitalize on a trend toward open networking in the fiber market, rolling out general availability of a new open programmable FTTX solution (pFTTX).

“I think 5G obviously, and O-RAN and open RAN get a lot of the press or almost all of the press, but there is an effort that is similar that’s going on in the fiber space,” Chris Rice, CEO of STL’s Access Solutions business, told Fierce. “That’s a significant market and we certainly want to be part of both of those markets.

Rice explained the pFTTX solution it is selling comprises the software layer of the network that allows operators to control subscriber management and network flows. The advantage of having this layer be software defined, he said, is that it becomes “more scalable, it’s disaggregated, you can build this on whiteboxes, et cetera.”

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The solution is compliant with Open Networking Foundation and Broadband Forum standards and is compatible with third-party applications. It can be deployed on telco servers, on-prem or in the cloud, and is available through VMware’s cloud marketplace.

Rice said STL’s pFTTX software was “built from scratch” over the course of the past two years or so. When he joined the company in March, he focused on how to turn that software into an actual product and start engaging customers.

The executive said scalability and a lower total cost of ownership are among the solution’s key benefits. Rice explained STL’s product consumes less power and therefore contributes less to opex. Additionally, the pFTTX can help streamline the transition between technology iterations, for instance from XGS-PON to 25G PON, since those are field programmable changes. Its open design also provides more choice for operators in terms of network equipment, Rice added.

In developed markets, Rice said STL is primarily targeting operators which are in the midst of transitioning from GPON to XGS-PON for fiber-to-the-home deployments. And in less developed markets, the focus is more on the transition to XGS-PON for fiber-to-the-business or fiber-to-the-cell site, he said.

“The demand is, I would call it, riding that wave of upgrade to XGS-PON because no one’s going to take a perfectly working system and just upgrade it to SDN just for the sake of doing it,” he explained. “But as they’re ready to migrate their network, they’re going to look to say how do I optimize that, how do I make it most cost efficient, how do I lower my TCO. And that’s really where the pFTTX solution will come into play.”

Rice added STL is already in different stages of field trials and proof of concepts with a number of operators, including with a “large carrier in Asia” as well as one in Taiwan.