RealTime IT News

SBC Puts DSL Limits on Trial

Deep in the heart of Texas SBC Communications Inc. Wednesday made a major move toward eliminating distance barriers for the delivery of digital subscriber line services.

Current 17,500 feet DSL distance limitations has slowed deployment of high-speed access over the technology that revs up copper connections. SBC's $6 billion Project Pronto initiative is based on removing distance barriers to DSL service deployment.

SBC is pushing fiber deeper into its service area by installing or upgrading neighborhood broadband gateways, otherwise known as remote terminal access facilities. The plan is to place RTAs containing digital electronics closer to potential customers so DSL service deployment is not bound to the nearest central office.

Mike Turner, SBC broadband services president, said its neighborhood broadband gateways would dramatically expand the addressable market for DSL services.

"This is an important milestone for the DSL industry," Turner said. "We'll provide millions of additional customers with access to DSL service, and we're committed to providing a platform that enables all DSL providers to take advantage of this exciting breakthrough."

During the trials, SBC said it would provide competitive local exchange carriers with open access to its neighborhood broadband gateways and DSL network. SBC's move to share RTA access has been an issue with the Federal Communication Commission, which indicated it might extend the November 1999 line sharing order to include remote terminal access.

Ten data CLECs are set to participate in the market trials along with four of SBC's subsidiaries. Network tests are currently scheduled for Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Kansas City, San Jose, Sacramento, Riverside, and Santa Rosa, CA, and Danbury, CT.

National data carrier Rhythms NetConnections Inc. made RTA access an issue for SBC when it filed a complaint with the FCC earlier this year. Rhythms legal team cited SBC for closing the door on the independent carriers ability to deploy DSL services.

Because SBC laid fiber to fire up its neighborhood gateways, providers collocated at central offices could not tap into the service expansion because glass and copper does not play well together. Data CLECs needed access to SBC's remote terminals to deploy quality DSL services.

SBC's temporary move to share access with other providers should take the regulatory heat off the former "Baby Bell," if it moves to make shared remote terminal access a permanent feature.

The FCC is expected to decide the ownership issue related to the neighborhood broadband gateways later in the third quarter. Once that happens, SBC plans to activate approximately 4,000 neighborhood gateways by year-end and 18,000 remote terminals by the end of 2002.

SBC intends to use the trials to monitor ordering, provisioning, billing and maintenance systems that it had to establish in order to share remote terminal access.

SBC has already made copper-based broadband access available to 16 million homes and businesses in its service area by equipping more than 1,100 central offices in the U.S. It currently provides high-speed connectivity through more than 435,000 DSL lines in service.

By the end of this year, SBC plans to make DSL services available to more than 18 million homes and businesses, which represents about 50 percent of the company's customers. As a part of SBC's Project Pronto, DSL services will eventually be made available to more than 80 percent of its service area in two years.

Currently SBC delivers minimum downstream connection speeds of 384 kilobits per second in its Pacific Bell,