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Report says 'last mile' Ethernet to spread first in Asia-Pacific

The ongoing effort to establish the Ethernet protocol as a universal broadband standard for last mile connections will make considerable headway in the next few years, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. That's the conclusion of a recent report, "Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM): Provisioning Broadband on the Cheap," from high-tech market research firm In-Stat/MDR. In the report, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based market watchers predict that the worldwide number of residential Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) subscribers will rise from 2.1 million in 2002 to 23.9 million in 2007, with most of these subscribers residing in the Asia-Pacific region.

In-Stat found that since the end of 2000, there has been growing momentum for the use of Ethernet in the residential subscriber access network owing to Ethernet's relatively low cost, simplicity, flexibility, ubiquity and high bandwidth.

"Ethernet in the First Mile" actually refers to what has traditionally been known as the "last mile," the connection between the customer and the telephone or cable company. The last mile has traditionally used copper-based telephone wire or coaxial cable. Proponents of the EFM Alliance made the name change as part of an effort to emphasize that the customer comes first.

The EFM Alliance is attempting to develop market awareness of the new technology. The Fremont, Calif.-based Alliance is an industry association composed of 24 silicon suppliers, equipment vendors, and service providers from the United States and various other countries.

EFM is currently being standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' 802.3ah Task Force. Completed standards for three physical layer topologies -- point-to-point over copper, point-to-multi-point over fiber and point-to-point over fiber -- as well as a common Operations, Administration and Management (OAM) protocol, are expected in the first half of 2004.

It its report, In-Stat/MDR also found the following:

* EFM over copper will comprise the majority of deployments throughout In-Stat/MDR's forecast period, 86% in 2002, although EFM over Fiber to the Home (FTTH) will rise to 29% of deployments by 2007.

* Residential EFM is, currently, mostly an Asia-Pacific phenomenon and will largely remain so over the next five years. Reasons for this include heavy reliance on Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs), short local loop lengths, low labor costs, appropriate pro-active government support and, particularly in the case of China, the need to deploy new infrastructure.

* Europe will be the second largest market for EFM, on a subscriber basis, with Scandinavia and Italy seeing particularly large deployments over the next five years. EFM deployment in the United States will remain fairly limited and will typically be deployed by alternative service providers, such as municipalities, utilities, property developers and independent telcos.

For information on this report, visit www.instat.com/catalog/cat-rc.htm.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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