RealTime IT News

Texas is Locus of Verizon's Fiber Focus

Verizon began rolling out fiber-to-the-premises technology in a fast-growing Dallas suburb Wednesday, the first step in an aggressive push to take market share from rival ISPs and cable operators.

FTTP uses fiber-optic lines instead of copper wires to connect homes and businesses directly to Verizon's network, avoiding last-mile snags and delivering data, voice and video products at breakneck speeds.

Download speeds will be offered at 5 megabits per second, 15 megabits per second and 30 megabits per second. New York-based Verizon expects to begin marketing these products in Texas later this year.

A technician will extend the fiber from the curb to the home with a wire (either in the air or buried). A piece of equipment, which will be included with the price of the service, will be installed at the home to convert optical signals to electrical signals, Verizon said.

The company is prepping its network for FTTP. Late last year, it tapped ADC, Corning Cable Systems, Preformed Line Products and Tyco Electronics for cabling and other outside plant equipment needed for the rollout.

Verizon plans to be in parts of nine states with this new technology year's end. While the company's goal is to bring FTTP within reach of 1 million households and small businesses, it's hasn't set a subscriber goal yet.

"They may well pass 1 million homes, but that's not necessarily equating to paying subscribers and a working service," said Ryan Mahoney, an analyst with Yankee Group.

Pricing, which has not yet been set, will also factor into the number of customers who opt for FTTP.

Longterm, the strategy makes sense because it extends Verizon's network and prepares it for competition, Mahoney said. Other carriers, including SBC and BellSouth , are testing the technology but are moving more cautiously.

Verizon will also take on cable providers on two fronts with FTTP -- broadband and video applications.

Marc Marchand, a Verizon spokesman, said the slowest Internet access via FTTP will still be twice as fast as most cable modem set-ups. In addition, the FTTP can easily handle video-conferencing, video-on-demand service and digital TV traffic, a market Verizon has been blocked from.

Marchand said data applications will come first, but Verizon is having internal discussions about video applications and could apply for local cable franchises to go head-to-head with cable providers. It would also require Verizon to contact content providers as well.

Despite the FTTP hoopla in Texas today, Verizon's has made significant investments in its digital subscriber line network, which will continue to carry the bulk of Verizon's broadband access for years to come, Mahoney said.

Verizon also announced today that it will open a new national technical support center for customers of products delivered over FTTP. Initially, the call center will employ 50 people. Verizon will add staff as it expands the FTTP footprint.

While the scale of the rollout is the largest, other firms are installing FTTP systems. According to a study released today by the Fiber-To-The-Home Council and the Telecommunications Industry Association, there are currently 128 communities in 32 states getting broadband content through fiber.

To date, most of the deployments have come from small telecoms and municipal utility companies, the groups said.