Louisiana-based telco CenturyLink Inc. is following Google's lead in bringing 1Gbit/s broadband service to Omaha, Neb., in what it's calling a pilot using fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure.
This is CenturyLink's first foray into the world of Gig speeds and its first sizable FTTP build, but if the 48,000-subscriber deployment goes well, the carrier plans to replicate it in other cities across the U.S. The deployment begins next week, and the company expects to complete it by early October.
CenturyLink CTO Matt Beal says that its customers don't actually need gigabit speeds right now, but this deployment is a matter of getting the network ready for when they do. He admits that the appetites of its consumers are greater than their budgets, too, so part of the deployment will be finding a balance between return on investment and affordable service. CenturyLink will provide access to residential customers for US$79.95 as part of a bundle or $149.95 standalone.
"We ran a GPON replacement strategy, and with a lot of the furor around broadband, we had an opportunity to get into the gigabit business and test what user behaviors would look like and how to provide the service," Beal says.
Another part of the pilot is exploring whether that GPON fiber can reduce operating expenses relative to copper, according to Jefferies & Co. Inc. analyst George Notter, who believes the telco will also reduce its operating expeditures by moving to a VoIP-based infrastructure for voice rather than its traditional network. If CenturyLink can prove the ROI without hiking up its prices to consumers, it'll help the case for future buildouts.
But that's not yet certain. Omaha is a unique market for CenturyLink in that it had the benefit of having Qwest's old fiber-to-the-curb infrastructure already deployed within 1,000 feet of subscriber homes, making the FTTP upgrade easier and cheaper to implement.
Before announcing its next move, the telco plans to see whether the community supports the service and if it can make a good ROI on it. Beal is optimistic that CenturyLink will continue its drive towards 1Gbit/s networks, and he says he's already identified a couple of other potential markets.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading