It rained hard in Brussels this week, soaking visitors to the IEC's Broadband World Forum, but curiously not dampening spirits.
Never mind that the Belgian government had just had to bail out the country's biggest bank or that service providers and vendors alike are struggling to find sustainable business models (see today's analystwire), the Forum demonstrated the industry's terrific determination to overcome all obstacles.
It was great to see such a diversity of opinion about timing as well as approaches, with the emphasis very much on Layer 1, and at the same time on the entire seven layer OSI stack. Speed and integration were the watchwords.
Sweden's privately held Transmode hasn't been touched by the economic conditions - it has been in profit for the last seven quarters. It has prospered by concentrating on providing straightforward, no frill layer one Wave Division Multiplexing (WDM) transport to Tier 2 and 3 carriers, cable operators (most notably Virgin Media in the UK) and metro-type networks - in other words, sticking to its knitting.
CEO Karl ThedÃ©en points out that there is no need to have all singing and dancing layer 2 and 3 intelligence at every aggregation point as it slows everything down and consumes huge amounts of power - a subject close to every operator's heart as energy costs surge.
ThedÃ©en says, "We can carry 80 channels/colours per fibre pair, meaning we can carry a total of 800Gbps per fibre pair, whereas GPON is restricted to 60 - 70Mbps downstream to the customer and even less upstream."
The beauty is that Transmode's stripped down for speed approach also means its typical power consumption is less than 10 Watts per 10 Gigabit Ethernet link. No wonder it has signed up its first, unnamed, Tier 1 customer in Europe.
Transmode's much larger competitor ADVA also caused quite a stir with its new Wave Division Multiplexing Passive Optical Network (WDM-PON) technology, Flexible Remote Node.
According to Dr Stefan Neidlinger, director, application and solution manager, ADVA, It means that the PON can cover distances of up to 100km between the central office/point of presence (POP) and the end point, again with minimal power consumption and enabling operators to get rid of some exchanges/central offices.
Big potatoes given that at last week's Carrier Ethernet World Congress in Berlin, Verizon commented that eliminating active equipment from transport wherever possible and getting rid of central offices would save it US$100 (â‚¬72.22) per year per customer.
AVDA argues that the time to deploy WDM PON is now, although one of its rivals, ECI, insisted that widespread commercial developments wouldn't happen until 2015 and in the meantime, Gigabit PON (GPON) would be the dominant technology to bring fibre closer to the user.
ECI's associate vice president, product marketing, network solutions division, Ron Levin, did acknowledge that in Europe operators had, for the time being, moved away from any plans to bring fibre to the home (FTTH) in favour of fibre to the [basements of multi-occupancy buildings] (FTTB) and fibre to the curb [kerb or street cabinet] (FTTC).
Nokia Siemens Networks pulled out of GPON earlier this year because it wasn't making much headway (Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei are all streets ahead of it).
However, Fujitsu evidently has other ideas, championing its 9500 multiservce optical solution in Europe for the first time. Flashwave technology has been deployed by Verizon to migrate traffic synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) traffic to Ethernet. According to Fujitsu, the only way to scale Ethernet over SDH is using PBT.
Sanjay Mewada argued that the only way for carriers to make money is from new charged-for services that are possible because of the increased bandwidth they supply. He is vice president of strategy, of software as services company NetCracker and pointed to the on-demand Microsoft Net Meeting service it provides for Telefonica.
As befits the industry at the moment, this involves two apparently contradictory elements: the separation of services from infrastructure and the simultaneous integration of all the relevant aspects of layers one to seven, from provisioning of a service to the allocation of sufficient bandwidth.
The trick is to avoid all the Frankenstein OSS/BSS, using meta data to extract only what is necessary for the task in hand, and billing, of course.
Next year's Broadband World Forum is in Paris. We're looking forward to it already, even if it rains.