January 8, 2021 by Carl Russo

Two Seismic Disruptions Happening in Telecommunications Right Now


Seismic disruptions in the communications industry don't come along often and, remarkably, we are in the middle of two. These two disruptions are having a profound impact on communication service providers and their subscribers. 

Disruption 1: The Client-Server Model 

You may say, “Wait a minute, that's not a disruption. That happened in the 1980s.” In fact, what's happening today is exactly the client-server model disruption. Every single device is actually a computer that has four things in common. 

  1. LCD screen 
  2. IP address 
  3. Wireless physical interface (or PHY) 
  4. Control mechanism 

If you assume what’s changed since the 1980s is all devices can assume a continuous and pervasive broadband connection. That means the device no longer has to carry all the content and applications resident on the device. Instead, the content and applications have moved to a different computational device in a data center, which we call the Cloud. Your device becomes the “client” to the “server” in the Cloud.  

This disruption enables a contemporary service provider to provide all services to a subscriber. Contrast that with the not-too-distant past, where a service provider provided a single service over a specific, physical media. For example, a cable MSO providing video services over coaxial cable or a telephony company providing voice services over twisted-pair copper. This comprehensive service ability allows the contemporary service provider the opportunity to become a critical and essential part of every subscriber’s life.  

So, why is this a disruption? Think about your cellular phone. A new feature shows up. Do you go buy a new cellular phone that has that feature? No. It’s rolled out to you from the service provider and you decide if you want it. The point is, all the power used to be in the providers' hand. Now, however, the adoption is driven by the subscriber through all the wireless devices they control. And this shift in power is the disruption.  

Disruption 2: The Collapse of the Physical Layer into the End-State Network 

The second disruption is at the physical layer. Once the device-enabled subscriber is able to demand all services come from a single service provider, the most efficient network must itself be able to provide this full suite of service offerings. Since all the devices have a wireless PHY the subscriber edge of the network must terminate with an antenna. That antenna will immediately take advantage of the carrying capacity of fiber optics to transport that traffic back to the data center at the edge of the Cloud. 

The physical fiber will be laid out in a trunk-and-tributary fashion, known in the industry as a “passive optical network” (PON). And increasing capacity will be aided by having separate wavelengths of light (lambdas) running in the fiber. The combination of pervasive wireless connectivity and virtually unlimited fiber capacity, physically deployed in a PON, is the ultimate end-state network.    

The winning solution.  

Calix platforms are riding these two seismic disruptions. In so doing, we’re simplifying our customers’ business, helping them excite their subscribers, and enabling them to build the last network they’ll ever need.  


Just in case you were thinking that Low Earth Orbiting Satellites are the solution, I encourage you to watch this short video.


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