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.
$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
“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
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
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.
When SBC’s broadband project is completed, customers with DSL service
through its neighborhood gateways will receive higher minimum “synch rate”
speeds. Minimum downstream speeds of 1.5 megabits per second will be the
standard, while some areas may receive minimum sync rate speeds of 6
megabits per second.
The higher downloading speeds enables SBC to deliver services like
video-on-demand and video conferencing to nearly 60 percent of its service
area connecting through its neighborhood gateways.