Vertex in the News |
Broadband Solutions - Actelis Addresses the Digital Divide
Author: Paula Bernier
Mobility Techzone, Feb 6, 2012
February 06, 2012
By , Executive Editor, TMC
Vivek Ragavan, president and CEO of broadband solutions provider Actelis (News - Alert) Networks, recently spoke with TMCnet about the company, its customers and products, and the state of broadband today.
For those readers not familiar with Actelis, what does the company sell and to whom?
Actelis’ mission is to accelerate delivery of broadband services, performance and reliability for our customers, such as Frontier Communications and Cbeyond (News - Alert) here in the U.S. Abroad, Actelis has longstanding relationships with innovative service providers Colt and Destiny. We also provide IP-based broadband access solutions to many of the nation’s municipalities, including the City of San Jose (California), Nassau County (New York) and Montgomery County (Maryland), which is home to many Capitol Hill politicians, as well as leading universities like Stanford University here in the Bay Area.
Developed this past year, our innovative solution called the BBA, or Broadband Accelerator, enables the delivery of broadband services to underserved and unserved residential subscribers with minimal CapEx and adds little to no OpEx to the carrier by leveraging the existing infrastructure (copper and remote DSLAMs). This translates into the ability to deliver affordable broadband services without compromising the carrier’s ability to obtain a reasonable ROI. With the Actelis BBA, broadband rates can be boosted by as much as 100% on typical loops and more than 400% on long loops. And with simple plug-and-play installation, an environmentally hardened, standards-based BBA takes minutes to install by a cable splicer and is powered by the existing POTS line. Because of our new BBA, Actelis believes that carriers worldwide can now view the digital divide as an opportunity to accelerate their success by significantly increasing their broadband penetration rates and coverage area for DSL-based services.
How and when did Actelis get started?
Actelis was founded in 1998 to solve the problem of accelerating broadband without funding multi-billion dollar network upgrades. The founders had the foresight to anticipate tightening purse strings and believed that reusing existing infrastructure would become imperative. We certainly have experienced a resurgence, particularly over the last couple of years, of carriers revitalizing their existing networks and leveraging their copper.
Over the last 14 years, Actelis has become well known in the marketplace as the world’s number one global supplier of Ethernet over copper solutions, but the company has evolved from a one-trick-pony, EFM-over-copper solutions provider to a company that is accelerating broadband for both enterprise and residential subscribers. Actelis is having a continued widespread impact on the broadband industry by enabling carriers to immediately deliver universal broadband services to millions of subscribers who are either out of reach or do not meet their government’s current definition of broadband.
How has Actelis’ strategy evolved over time?
Our history has a foundation in broadband access and we continually innovate and develop our product line and company strategy to reflect this position. As I previously mentioned, our goal has been to make the most efficient use of the existing infrastructure. To achieve this, we had to ensure that the capital outlay was minimized, existing operation expertise and systems could be utilized and the incremental operational expense could be kept very low. Every Actelis product is built on these principles and, as a result, we have significantly improved broadband service delivery with unprecedented distances and higher bandwidth while minimizing the loops required to provide the bandwidth end users are demanding.
A great example of a new technology that has enabled these greater rates and coverage is our DRB (Dynamic Rate Boost) technology. Actelis’ broadband solutions with built-in DRB technology is playing a key role in a carrier Ethernet initiatives, enabling them to significantly boost symmetrical bandwidth throughput and coverage area and efficiently scale the types of business-class, managed and cloud-based services they can deliver to their businesses customers, while drastically reducing their operational costs by replacing outdated T1 circuits.
On the residential side, with the launch of Actelis’ BBA in 2011, we continued that rich history of innovation. Actelis’ BBA can be used to grow the customer base to which carriers can offer triple-play services, including IPTV (News - Alert), which, according to Screen Digest’s IPTV Market Monitor Q2 2011 Report, has a global subscriber base of over 47 million. Since the BBA is powered by the existing POTS line and takes only minutes to install, carriers can see an accelerated time to market, immediate compliance with government mandates and higher revenue with minimal capital investment and virtually no increase in operational expenses.
What’s interesting about the BBA, however, is that it represents a major paradigm shift in the way carriers can now address the digital divide. No longer is the digital divide a challenge, but an economic opportunity, in my opinion. With the BBA, carriers now have a pragmatic solution that will drive increased revenues because they can finally deliver on the promise of ubiquitous broadband across their entire customer serving area. So whether carriers are trying to bridge the digital divide to meet government directives or deliver value-added services like IPTV, over-the-top video and on-demand TV, they can achieve these goals with the Actelis BBA. There is absolutely no need for any carrier and their residential customers to wait for high-speed broadband service. With Actelis’ BBA, if you’ve got dial tone, then you’ve got broadband.
What is unique about Actelis and how does it compare to the other challenges you have faced and overcome?
I’ve worked in the telecommunications industry for 30 years. During this period, I’ve worked for and helped found a number of industry-leading companies, including General Instrument (now part of Motorola), ADC Telecommunications (now part of Tyco Electronics), Siara Systems/Redback Networks (now part of Ericsson) and Atrica (now part of Nokia Siemens (News - Alert) Networks), all of which focused on developing technological advances in broadband access but in different layers of the stack. I would characterize my career as always being involved in leveraging the latest technology to accelerate broadband adoption, and that is exactly what Actelis’ mission has always been, so it was a natural fit when I joined the company in the spring of 2009. During this time, I’ve employed my past experience and success in growing various businesses, executing their successful exit strategies and delivering exceptional shareholder value to guide and accelerate Actelis’ business in universal broadband for both enterprise and residential markets. Subsequently, we’ve successfully grown the business year over year and in a very tough economic climate. I believe that all my past experiences are relevant to this opportunity with Actelis, where I plan to accelerate success for the company, our investors, our customers and partners.
Given Actelis is a broadband access company, let’s talk a bit about the state of broadband adoption, in general. Where are we with broadband adoption in the U.S.?
Broadband has been growing at a phenomenal clip, with subscribers now totalling more than 581 million worldwide. However, whether you look at the United States or in other developed and developing countries, the digital divide still persists. The most effective way to close that divide is leveraging the existing infrastructure. Actelis is helping fuel the growth in broadband and bridge the digital divide through solutions like our BBA.
You may have seen recently that the FCC’s (News - Alert) Broadband Adoption Taskforce published statistics that showed the broadband adoption rate in the US at 68%, leaving about one third of US homes without a broadband connection. With broadband dubbed as the new catalyst for economic growth, both the US government and governments abroad are motivated to develop universal broadband for all. Here in the US, the FCC agreed to transition the Universal Service Fund, originally created to deliver POTS to rural communities and low-income residents, toward the deployment of broadband service to unserved and underserved Americans. I believe that broadband service provides a critical ingredient to promoting economic development and enabling efficient commerce. In this context, making universal broadband accessible to everyone has always been Actelis’ mission.
Where are we with broadband adoption abroad?
Abroad, universal broadband differs. Switzerland was the first country in the world to provide universal broadband service to its citizens, in January 2008, followed by Finland. Taiwan started broadband universal service in 2007. The British government planned to make broadband available to every household by 2012, but the coalition government has delayed this by three years because they believe the cost is too great—a problem that Actelis’ BBA actually solves. The reality is, whether in the US or abroad, universal broadband is a necessary requirement for economic growth to narrow the digital divide.
What are the expectations for broadband availability and adoption going forward?
Governments around the world are setting targets and mandates for broadband. Most governments agree that there is a direct link between broadband availability and economic prosperity. But there are several dimensions to the delivery of universal broadband and adoption going forward:
•It must be affordable for the carrier, from a CapEx and OpEx perspective, allowing them to deliver an affordable service to the end customer;
•It should be expedient. The goal of delivering universal broadband cannot require years of waiting or months of trenching; and
•It must deliver a service that provides adequate capacity, not only to meet the threshold of what is considered broadband, but also provide the flexibility to layer on value-added services like IPTV and over-the-top video.
Is there anything in the pipeline at Actelis about which you can give us an inkling?
Actelis’ traditional business has been to develop and bring to market broadband access solutions over existing networks for the enterprise market. And while we have achieved great success in this space, we are also focusing on the residential market, where we believe the acceleration in growth enabled by our new BBA product line provides unprecedented opportunity for Actelis and our customers.
The BBA is the first solution Actelis has produced for the residential market and we are currently developing new solutions. There remain many untapped areas in DSL technology, such as VDSL2 and vectoring, that will enable carriers to achieve their goals: leverage existing assets, future-proofing networks, minimizing Capex and OpEx, and generating additional new revenue streams. Actelis is developing solutions that will help carriers realize the full potential of such key technologies to achieve their goals, which will accelerate both their success as well as ours.
There has been a lot of hype recently about various other DSL enhancements, but it is important to note that these are merely tests conducted in pristine lab environments and not actual field deployments. Actelis continues to focus on our customers’ practical needs, adding support for VDSL2, vectoring and other DSL variants into our product portfolio. Furthermore, we are pushing the boundaries on how much bandwidth is available on copper, further exceeding the unmatched rate, reach and reliability Actelis already delivers over existing networks.
When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
Given the global nature of Actelis’ business, I spend a lot of time at work, but I have many passions outside of work: travelling with my family, enjoying the great outdoors, winemaking and reading. Recently, I returned to my hometown (Mumbai, India), where I got a chance to visit with friends and family. I left Mumbai at age 17 to come to America, so it’s always nice to return home, so to speak.
Winemaking is also a passion of mine. In fact, I have a vineyard on my property located in Portola Valley (California), where I grow a varietal of cabernet grapes that produce a wine reminiscent of a light-bodied, fruit-forward pinot noir. I also try to keep up on my reading, especially about the latest scientific developments. I really enjoy travelling with my family to many outdoor locations around the world. Some other things that keep me sharp and focused include running and mentoring entrepreneurs. And I also serve on the Advisory Board for the Northwestern University McCormick School of Engineering.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca