RealTime IT News

Verizon's FTTP Plan Takes Shape

Verizon has unveiled new details about its strategic fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) push, including pricing, data speeds, future markets and a launch date for television service.

The carrier's Fios (pronounced "fye-ose") service will be available to consumers in Keller, Texas, in coming weeks. It features three tiers of Internet access speeds: 5 Mbps, 15 Mbps and 30 Mbps. Each is available as part of a bundle with phone services or as standalone Internet access. Pricing starts at $34.95 for the most basic service.

Verizon is betting that FTTP, with its fast speeds and ability to carry data, voice and video, will lure customers from rival telecoms and ISPs that offer digital subscriber line over copper and cable operators selling broadband through coax.

Though it's starting the rollout with high-speed Internet access, a key reason Verizon is investing in FTTP is its ability to carry television programming -- a hole in its bundled communications offerings. The company plans a Fios video offering in 2005.

Verizon also announced the next communities slated for Fios. In California, fiber will be available to about 100,000 homes and businesses in the Huntington Beach area. The company will begin a similar rollout in Tampa and parts of Hillsborough County in Florida.

Joe Laszlo, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research, said Fios could shake up the U.S. broadband market. (Jupiter Research and internetnews.com are owned by Jupitermedia.)

FTTP, as well as the back-end network, should be able to support television, Laszlo said. And if Verizon assembles an attractive programming option, it could lure customers from Comcast , Time Warner and others.

Smaller telecoms that have offered TV programming have typically been able to convince 20 percent to 30 percent of their voice customers to sign on for TV, Laszlo said. "The goal is for a bundled triple play of video, high-speed data and voice," he said.

A successful deployment of television by Verizon could prod cable operators to act. The most likely reaction would be to bump up speeds of their high-speed Internet offerings and more aggressively pursue their own voice offerings, including Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) , Laszlo said.

Laszlo is still cautious about Verizon's goal, noting that previous new technology deployment goals set by large telecoms have tended to be too optimistic.

Still, even if there is some slippage in the timetable or the number of homes passed, Verizon's FTTP deployments this year should give Baby Bells a good idea of how the technology works and what kind of services and applications are attractive to consumers.

In recent years, broadband industry watchers have included FTTP among a litany of emerging technologies that could one day replace copper-based digital subscriber lines and cable modems. A small, but growing number of independent carriers, housing developers and public/private partnerships have led the way in helping to develop fiber-based, last-mile broadband access.

But large carriers, wary of the costs of buying and installing miles of fiber-optic cable, have proceeded cautiously -- except for Verizon. Earlier this year, it announced plans to pass 1 million homes and businesses in parts of nine states with fiber by the end of the year.

Verizon's movement has forced others to take a hard look at the technology. SBC Communications recently committed $6.2 billion to a fiber rollout over the next five years.