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Verizon Discusses 1-Gbit/s Possibilities

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) may have successfully tested 1-Gbit/s (gigabits per second) download speeds over its FiOS network, but that doesn't mean the company is prepared to immediately move beyond its current top speed tiers of 50 Mbit/s (megabits per second) downstream, 20 Mbit/s up. (See Verizon Shows FiOS Can Deliver Gig-E.)

The first place the additional bandwidth might be used is providing wireless backhaul services to cell towers, says Vincent O’Byrne, director of Verizon’s technology organization and the man who was judge and jury on the 1-Gbit/s technology trial. That could happen as early as next year, in support of Verizon's Long Term Evolution (LTE) rollout.

Next on the list would be business applications for companies served by FiOS business offerings. Big bandwidth consumer services, to support such offerings as 3DTV, are still a couple of years away. The addition of new service tiers will be done incrementally, as new high-speed applications arise or as more concurrent users at a given location create demand.

"I don't think anyone is screaming for 1G service today," says O'Byrne. [Ed. note: We're not screamers. But how about a knowing wink?]

The key to the trial for Verizon was proving that it's ready to move when consumer demand is there, and that the FiOS network it has deployed can also handle what is expected to be a boom in wireless backhaul services for 4G smartphones.

The field trial enabled Verizon to test the impact of delivering the almost 1-Gbit/s speeds on the services of the roughly 1,400 subscribers on the gateway router supporting the trial, which is something the company can't accomplish in its lab, O'Byrne says.

"A lot of this is for ourselves internally to make sure there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the network that it cannot provide those types of speeds and to gain some experiences as to congestion management on the network, because obviously as you add more users, we will need visibility into that," O'Byrne says.

The actual delivery of 1-Gbit/s services would require additional capacity in Verizon's backbone networks, O'Byrne says, which is another reason not to expect such services on the market quickly.

Verizon will be offering symmetrical services at higher speeds, as it did with its 35 Mbit/s and 25 Mbit/s symmetrical services, according to O'Byrne, and that can be accomplished with software changes that actually remove limits on upstream bandwidth.

"Going forward, we are looking at more symmetric speeds -- we see that as a competitive advantage of FiOS as a whole."

Verizon will also have internal IT work to finish before offering wireless backhaul services over the FiOS network, in order to enable a different part of its organization to get alarms and other operations and support system information concerning what's happening on the access network serving the cell towers.

Having successfully tested the new speeds using Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)'s fiber access gear, Verizon won't have to duplicate the field test with its other vendor, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), O'Byrne says. But the company may do an internal trial, involving delivering some high-bandwidth services to its own executives, using the Alcatel-Lucent gear.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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