RealTime IT News

Baby Bells Advance Fiber Plans

Verizon today announced the next six states in its aggressive fiber-to-the-premises rollout.

The carrier will deploy the infrastructure -- which can deliver high-speed data, voice and video -- in communities in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. It's already offered to consumers and small and medium businesses in parts of California, Florida and Texas.

In recent years, broadband industry watchers have included FTTP among a litany of emerging technologies that could one day replace copper-based DSL and cable modems.

A small number of independent carriers, housing developers and public/private partnerships have led the pack. Large carriers, wary of the costs of buying and installing miles of fiber-optic cable, have proceeded cautiously -- until now.

Verizon currently sells FiOS broadband Internet access services to its early FTTP customers, but a compelling reason for deploying FTTP is to beat out cable rivals like Comcast for bundled communications services.

"We will have video next year," Bob Ingalls, president of Verizon's retail markets, said during a news conference this afternoon.

Verizon is negotiating with programming companies for content packages and also plans to use FTTP to deliver more advanced services, such as video-on-demand and high-definition, Ingalls said. He declined to discuss pricing.

The company also said it will hire between 3,000 and 5,000 new employees by the end of 2005 to help build the network. This is a change for the sector, which has been axing jobs to cut costs. In all, the company's FTTP capital investment will hit $800 million this year.

Meanwhile, SBC Communications is testing video through fiber, its executives said today.

"We will begin to put video in the terrestrial network as soon as we have pieces in place," Ed Whitacre, SBC's CEO, said in a third-quarter conference call with analysts. "We will not wait until we have it all in place."

The Baby Bell will hold a news conference on Nov. 11 to provide more details about its video initiative. Today's news comes a week after an FCC ruling prompted SBC to accelerate its fiber plans.

SBC will continue to offer a bundle of services that include satellite TV through the DISH network until the fiber is ready. About 100,000 subscribers signed up for DISH service through SBC in the third quarter. And because SBC is phasing in fiber, satellite is not being discontinued anytime soon.

"We will continue to market and sell the DISH product outside of that [fiber] footprint," Rick Linder, SBC's CFO, said during the conference call.

Linder said the fiber plan won't bump the company's capital expense budget this year, but could increase it up to 10 percent in the next fiscal year.