Lightspeed Unauthorized

FRISCO, Texas -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) still hasn't formally announced that it is rolling out Project Lightspeed in North Texas, but Light Reading has found proof that it's on the way. A field trip, with camera in hand, revealed there's heavy competition brewing as local cable companies and CLECs brace for a big fight with "the new" AT&T.

The Ground Wars
Earlier this year, we reported that AT&T was adding fiber to the premises (FTTP) and fiber to the curb (FTTC) connections in the city of Frisco, Texas. (See AT&T Readies Lightspeed in North Texas.) While that work marches on, the competition is showing up, too. In the Pearson Farms master-planned community, where homes range in size from 2,595 square feet to 4,500 square feet, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has also arrived to install some new infrastructure, pictured below, right next to an AT&T splice box that was spotted near some new home construction.

A few miles down the road, AT&T is getting competition from Grande Communications , which operates as a CLEC and a cable MSO in Frisco and several other North Texas cities. This competition, though good for consumers, adds to the clutter in the 'hood.

What's noteworthy about the cabinet farm above? A plugged-in source says that the AT&T gear in that particular location hasn't been upgraded for Lightspeed yet. So that means you could soon see a DSLAM cabinet and another power pedestal, on yet another concrete pad. But who ever said telecom equipment was pretty?

A Power Problem?
Of course, not all is wine and roses as these communications giants are looking to leapfrog each other in the race to provide voice, video, and data to consumers. At the foot of Old Orchard Park, in Frisco, right next door to an elementary school, this cabinet farm houses two potentially troubling power problems -- one for a local cable company and one for AT&T.

First, the cable box. While nothing appears to be wrong in front...

…the back of the box was unlocked and partially open. We took a picture, then latched it back as best as we could:

We can't seem to get anyone to fess up to owning this particular box. Comcast, Grande, and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) all serve different parts of this area. All three have been queried by Light Reading and only Grande has responded to say that it sent out a technician and verified that the box doesn’t belong to Grande.

At this same appallingly ugly cabinet farm, we saw a Lightspeed-ready IP DSLAM cabinet (on the left) next to a big 'ol crossconnect cabinet:

A few feet away, a controlled environmental vault (CEV) houses the digital loop carriers that provide DSL service to the neighborhood and, probably, the elementary school nearby:

But, alas, AT&T may possibly have a power problem, too. This power pedestal, marked as Southwestern Bell property, which appears to provide electricity to some of the above listed boxes, has a shut-off switch on its outside. Might be easy for, say, a kid to yank.

AT&T had no immediate comment on the power pedestal -- they're still checking into it. But it's worth noting that all power pedestals have a shut-off switch somewhere on them, but usually they're locked up. And, of course, we couldn't confirm firsthand that this particular power pedestal was operational. Pulling the switch just didn't seem like the right thing to do.

Fiber to the Model Home
Off Teel Road, in another subdivision under construction, we found a Sotherby model home decked out with a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connection from AT&T. The connection wasn't live yet, but here we offer a closeup of the Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) ONT, the wires coming from inside the home, and the inside of the ONT itself:

Lightspeed Ready
So is it possible that what we're seeing is just routine work and not the massive upgrade that AT&T promised to make as part of Project Lightspeed? Could be. But, as we peeked inside this crossconnect box on Deep Canyon Trail, we found a specific reference to Lightspeed, and more proof that AT&T is close to bringing advanced services to the Dallas area:

Some background: The "Lightspeed Ready" tag, a trusty source says, is given when a technician says that all the F2 copper wires in a crossconnect box are in good condition. F2 wires go from the crossconnect box to the home, as noted in this photo's small print. F1 cables connect the central office to the crossconnect box.

So, phone company reps might say that it's not set in stone that Dallas and its surrounding suburbs will be among those regions lit up this year. The video backbone must be complete, backend and billing systems must be brought online, call centers must be staffed, etc., before U-verse can go live around these parts.

But the visible, physical evidence suggests Frisco and the North Dallas suburbs are very close to getting these new services -- otherwise, why would AT&T bother with so much outside plant construction and all the man-hours spent to certify all that copper wire?

Elsewhere in North Dallas, signs of Project Lightspeed are starting to become clear, as new IP DSLAM cabinets are installed next to existing crossconnect boxes and digital loop carrier cabinets. Witness this installation a Light Reading source snapped while cruising down the Dallas North Tollway, near Frankford Road, about 15 miles from Frisco.

Here's another sign of Lightspeed -- an IP DSLAM cabinet and power pedestal next to a DLC cabinet on the west side of Preston Road, just south of Campbell Road, in Dallas:

Yet another Lightspeed location, literally on the corner of Campbell Road and Hillcrest Drive in Richardson:

[Editor's note: Leaving Frisco is easy, but getting in is tough. Commuter traffic heading into the bustling city on a Friday afternoon was backed up more than a half a mile from the intersection of Main Street and Lebanon Road. Click here for the evidence.]

What does AT&T say about all of our happy snapping? Not much, really. The carrier still won't confirm specific cities targeted for its U-verse service beyond what it has already stated publicly. Spokesman Wes Warnock says the carrier is targeting 15 to 20 markets for the U-verse service by the end of the year. "In addition to San Antonio and Houston, we'll be reaching additional markets across our 13-state territory late in the fourth quarter," he says.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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rbkoontz 12/5/2012 | 3:42:51 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized This article and all the photos are lame. You guys act you've never seen an OSP cabinet before. There are over 200k DLC cabinets, over 500k cross connect, and countless other remote DSLAM, power node, and cable O/E nodes across the country.

How about a real story?
EnterpriseGuy 12/5/2012 | 3:42:49 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized The reason an electrical shut-off switch is unlocked in California is due to electrical code. Take a look at any home in the bay area built in the 1970's or later and you will find a wall panel at the MPOE for electrical service. It is to remain unlocked and available for anyone in an emergency to remove electrical power to the premisis.

One of my past homes, located in the bay area, was the subject of neighbor kids' fun for a few days.
Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 3:42:48 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized Thanks.

The only problem is... your opinion is in direct opposition to how our readers are voting with their mice. This is already easily the most trafficked story on the site for the week (and will soon already be the month's top story).
desiEngineer 12/5/2012 | 3:42:47 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized Most trafficked != good.

We're all looking for news and this purports to have some. I found a neighborhood SBC truck and the technician was testing the lines. I asked him if it was for Project Lightspeed, and he said yes, that they were testing the lines to see how bad or good they were, that I would soon see a bolt-on pedestal, etc.

IPTV and Project Lightspeed *are* interesting in themselves, and if you put up an article that talks about them, we'll all come ... and get disappointed if you serve us this kind of stuff.

But maybe it's just a trolling article - after all, most of the interesting stuff comes through the message board anyway.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:42:43 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized re: But should someone really be able to pull a lever and shut off DSL to an entire neighborhood?

Isn't that what deregulation is all about? Remember CA's electricity in 2000? Traders were shutting down power plants and transmission lines all over the place. Shouldn't the cable companies be given similar controls? That's what sparks innovation such as Almond Strowger's switch ;-)

Not too worry, FCC bureaucrats in DC can monitor all of CA's outside plants and make sure the DSL shutdowns are for maimtenance reasons only.
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:42:43 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized But should someone really be able to pull a lever and shut off DSL to an entire neighborhood?

I'm tempted to go back and give that think a yank to see what happens.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:42:43 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized desi,

the article points out exactly where lightspeed is going next. no one's announced that yet. it's news.

re: "after all, most of the interesting stuff comes through the message board anyway."

that's true, some days. and it keeps folks coming back. so that's a good thing.

Bifferoo 12/5/2012 | 3:42:38 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized The ONT on side of the model home appears to be an old model of the Alcatel ONT. Alcatel hasn't been selling these for close to a year. How old are these pictures?
oldPCSguy 12/5/2012 | 3:42:24 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized saw some trenching happening literally on the city limit of Riverside. Stopped to ask what they were putting in and was told fiber is on the way. I already knew that cause the dig alert people had been painting vegatable soup of acronyms all over the street. I did a little research with the city and learned that new AT&T telco (allegedly fiber) cabinets are coming down the street. A few months ago verizon buried their own fiber under the street. They passed my neighborhood and it appears they are not putting in any cabinets hear my neighborhood. It looks like a little fiber war is starting between two big dogs in the hood.
rs50terra 12/5/2012 | 3:42:17 AM
re: Lightspeed Unauthorized The pictures show a very ugly story. The profusion of cabinets is now what one would like to see in a new and modern subdivision.

I wonder how people out up with it.

I have Cable and one can barely notice their boxes on the street.

AT&T, wake up!
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