AT&T Prepping for GPON

Sources say AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is putting its GPON vendors through rigorous acceptance testing and could begin rapid installations of the gear towards the end of this year, thus keeping its promise to deploy GPON in 2008.

AT&T set that timetable in June, saying it would be installing GPON in its greenfield fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) deployments, with Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) providing the gear. (See AT&T Picks GPON Players.)

Ma Bell confirmed that it's still planning to install GPON sometime this year but would give no more specific details on the timetable.

Nor has AT&T commented on the size of these GPON deployments. Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie, in his FTTH Worldwide Technology Update & Market Forecast, estimates that the deployment could reach several hundred thousand new customers per year from 2009 onwards. (See GPON Driving Worldwide Growth of FTTH.)

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), the other major carrier in the U.S. doing GPON rollouts, announced earlier this year that it would drastically increase its pace in 2008, naming nine states in which all new FiOS installations would be GPON based. (See Verizon Preps GPON Push

But Verizon is putting GPON into older developments as well as greenfield ones, aiming to eventually deliver 100 Mbit/s to each home. (See Verizon Spells Out 100 Mbit/s and Verizon Leads the Great 100-Mbit/s Bandwidth Race.)

AT&T sends around 25 Mbit/s to each home over its mostly fiber-to-the-node network, but only 10 Mbit/s of that bandwidth can be allocated towards downstream Internet speeds. (See AT&T Ups U-verse Downloads.)

The company told Broadband Reports back in October that this number would not be higher for its FTTH deployments, in order to "maintain a consistent user experience across the board."

While AT&T has not officially saidt it would begin installing GPON in existing neighborhoods, speculation is that further increase in bandwidth demands from customers will eventually pressure the company into doing so. Heavy Reading's Graham Finnie figures this could happen in 2012.

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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