Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Who's Gonna Get Fiber to My Home?

Who's Gonna Get Fiber to My Home?

Yesterday my colleague at TMCnet, Johanne Torres, wrote about Verizon's plans over the next five to six years to switch over its network nationwide from PSTN to IP:

First Town in Verizon Nationwide VoIP Conversion

Also yesterday, TMC President Rich Tehrani called my attention to an article by Jim Duffy with some higher-level analysis and explanation of Verizon's strategy.

Verizon has received acclaim for its Fiber to the Home (FTTH, aka Fiber to the Premises, or FTTP) efforts.

The concept and intent behind FTTP seems to me like an incredibly important movement. So I've been wondering what plans are in the works from the incumbent RBOC I'm handcuffed to, SBC Communications, to implement FTTH. For the past 10+ years as a home Internet user, I've yearned for decent bandwidth that allows me to really converge. I finally gave up on SBC's DSL service about a year ago, as I was disgusted with their poor customer service and inattention to problems with my account. (Note: This was a back-office/call center problem -- the real telephone guys who come to your house are great.) So now, Comcast is my Internet provider, and I much prefer the cable access I have now.

My friend Chuck (not his real name -- don't want to get him in trouble) is an SBC field supervisor, so I asked him what SBC's plans are for FTTP. Am I going to get fiber into my house sometime soon? Chuck's reply: "Not gonna happen." According to him, SBC plans FTTH only for new construction -- retrofitting to existing homes is too expensive.

Searching the SBC Web site, I found this news release:

SBC Communications to Detail Plans for New IP-Based Advanced Television, Data and Voice Network

From what I gather from this release, SBC indeed only plans real FTTP for new construction. For existing homes, they plan an alternative called Fiber to the Node (FTTN). Here's some more detail about that, from the release:

"In existing neighborhoods, or 'overbuild' situations, SBC plans to use an FTTN architecture, which on average takes fiber to within 3,000 feet of homes being served and makes use of advanced compression technologies along with IP switching to deliver high-quality TV, Internet access and voice services. FTTN is capable of delivering 20 to 25 megabits downstream, sufficient to simultaneously deliver four streams of TV programming, including HDTV and Internet access with robust speeds, and IP voice--all on a common IP network platform.

"While the two architectures support the same services and deliver many of the same capabilities and benefits, the company expects that FTTN deployment can be completed in one-fourth the time required for an FTTP overbuild and with about one-fifth the capital investment.

"By the end of 2007, the company expects to reach 17 million households with FTTN technology and nearly 1 million with FTTP."

So that holds out some hope, even for us poor slobs who don't plan to build new homes anytime soon. But am I one of the 17 million FTTN winners? And can I really wait up to three years for SBC's FTTN rollout? And am I eager enough for convergence that I will be willing to hold my nose and go back to SBC and its unresponsive customer service?

Not if somebody else can get fiber to my home sooner! Any takers?

Al B. -- 12/15/04

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