Qwest Communications is following the fiber lead set by its Bell siblings with an announcement that it has started to build a fiber-based residential communications network just outside of Denver.

The Denver-based telco has installed a FTTH network in the new RidgeGate housing development south of Denver, offering high-speed data, television programming and local and long-distance phone service via the fiber link. RidgeGate homeowners will receive Qwest high-speed Internet access at 1.5 Megabits per second at a reduced rate, or opt for higher-speed service up to 40 Mbps. Dedicated sales representatives assigned to the RidgeGate sales office have been assigned to help the homeowners choose the right combination of services.

Each home also is wired to deliver data and voice traffic to multiple devices, with no modems required. Residents can simply plug their computers or devices into Ethernet jacks throughout their homes.

As with its Bell siblings, Qwest plans to build FTTH networks where it makes sense in Greenfield residential areas.

"Fiber-to-the-home is an extension of our efforts to deliver new broadband services and applications to customers," said Jim Vogel, Qwest's vice president of sales. "As a result, RidgeGate homeowners will have some of the most technologically advanced households in the state."

They also can tap Qwest Choice TV, an all-digital service offering more than 200 channels, HDTV programming and digital video recorder options.

BellSouth has sustained its slower-paced rollout of fiber to selected neighborhoods.

Michael Arden, ABI Research's principal analyst of broadband and residential entertainment technologies, noted Qwest's decision to delve into FTTH backs up the growing telco belief that fiber is likely the best bet for providing high-bandwidth services to consumers.

"Qwest's FTTX rollout illustrates its awareness that it must start developing some sort of solution to compete with Verizon and SBC," he noted in a release. "My guess is that they'll see what happens with this initiative, and will then decide in another year or so if they want a more aggressive rollout. At this point, they're so late to the game that they may as well wait."