FiOS ONTs - The Large Scale Customer Relationship

I have never been involved in a relationship as big as FiOS was. The peak years were around $600M in revenue for Tellabs and caused the Access Business to be over 50% of Tellabs. That caused its own set of problems internally but today I want to write about how that worked with Verizon.

This was a huge project inside of Verizon as well as Tellabs. There were thousands of Verizon employees involved and lots and lots of new technology. Not just the AFC parts but Harmonic gear and the OSS environment. The simple fact that they were laying fiber to the end instead of copper was new. The installation inside the home was new. Murphy was everywhere. My favorite anecdote around that was that the first ONT shipment was returned. The packaging needed to be changed. Neither side had discussed it previously and we each had different expectations.

So for every real product problem there was from the beginning, there were 10 newness issues. This meant that both companies had to make lots of changes in concert. We would be on phone calls about issues and there would be dozens of Verizon folks on the phone. There were times they would never even get to us as they were having so many hand-off issues. None of these things were miracles, but I think that people underestimate the scale of changing how a 100,000 person organization works.

One of the things that Verizon wanted to accomplish was to drive the quality of FiOS to that of POTS. What this meant is we tracked failures and problems extensively. It led us to become experts in the technology in unexpected ways. For example, we found that aerial plant was often run through trees in home drops. The wind would blow and stress the fiber. Well, I found a paper from Lawrence-Livermore Labs that mechanical stress added loss and delay. We could see the delay change when the wind blew. Who would have thought it?

This property allowed us to build a fiber stretching tool that added delay and more importantly loss to the fiber. We were able to test the loss properties of FTTP receivers and how wide the window of good to bad was. We found it was very narrow, less than 0.1dB. We (and Verizon) had been looking for Bit Error Rate (BER) measurements as a signal that a line was going bad. The reality was that the chances of this being an early warning system was remarkably small.

Again, if you think back to focus - imagine trying to compete with that real world knowledge. I used to say we had the world's greatest test bed - The Verizon Network. Now nobody would say that to Verizon, but at some level it was true. There was simply no way for us to replicate all the things that Verizon stumbled onto. I know people think that they can just walk into one of these large network operations and change them. It just isn't that easy. In our DLC and DSL days, we were able to walk with some small IOCs before we ran. By the time AT&T deployed something, we had a year or more of field experience behind us. FiOS was different and I can tell you that it is NOT the best place to do something for the first time. And here both sides were doing 100s of things for the first time. In that light, it all worked as well as could be expected. I just hope my clients and potential clients recognize that experience factor that I bring to our relationship.

Next up my weekly local post, then my general business topic. When I get back to Tellabs, I will post about what happened to GPON.

Jim Sackman
FocalPoint Business Coaching
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