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RBOC trio agree on fiber standards, plan big broadband push

Thu, 05/29/2003 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

Three large telcos — BellSouth Corp., SBC Communications and Verizon — have adopted a set of common standards and specifications for advanced fiber-based systems designed to pump video, voice and data services to consumers and businesses.

This so-called fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) platform will be used to offer advanced applications such as gaming, photo sharing, video conferencing, home/business security and on-demand and high-definition video services.

The use of common specs and standards will allow manufacturers to build FTTP equipment more cost-effectively, the telcos claimed. The three said they have alerted equipment manufacturers that they will soon be seeking bids and proposals for such equipment.

The benefits offered by those specifications and fiber-based networks likely won't be seen for years. BellSouth, SBC and Verizon did not provide a specific timeframe for FTTP technology evaluation and deployment, other than to say it would happen in "2004 and beyond."

Still, the decision to adopt standards and move head with deployments marks a significant shift in fiber-for-copper plans involving the big phone companies. So far, most fiber-to-the-home deployments have been relegated to segments such as competitive local exchange carriers, municipalities and utilities.

According to one analyst, the development will further spur competition and innovation among broadband service providers.

"With these common technology requirements, and the expected resulting manufacturing economies, widespread FTTP deployment has the potential to spur new telecom investment, stimulate competition across the spectrum of communications and entertainment services, and enable innovative, bandwidth-hungry applications for consumers," said Matt David, director of broadband access technologies at the Yankee Group.

According to cable's primary lobbying group, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

"One of the reasons consumers choose cable modem service 2-to-1 over DSL is that cable uses standardized technology, which enables consumers to buy modems at retail and use them with any cable system," said NCTA President and CEO Robert Sachs, in a statement. "We're not surprised to see the Bell companies following cable's lead."

The DOCSIS effort at CableLabs has worked wonders for the cable industry, driving the price of stand-alone cable modems to as low as $50 per unit.

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