RBOCs See Three Ways to FTTP

As more FTTP RFP details trickle in, it becomes clear what deployment scenarios the RBOCs are considering

October 31, 2003

3 Min Read
RBOCs See Three Ways to FTTP

In the mood for a scary project? Try reaching between 50,000 and 640,000 homes next year with fiber connections.

That's what three regional Bells -- BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC), and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) -- say they can do. And now that we have some idea of what they're forecasting for the first phase of their big fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout (see FTTP Booty Tough to Peg), let's delve into how they plan to do what they're considering.

The carriers have presented are a few types of deployment possibilities to their potential suppliers as part of the FTTP RFP. Here are the main ones:

  • Overlay: In this scenario, the FTTP equipment is added to the carriers' existing copper network. There are at least two sub-scenarios here. In one, POTS are left on the copper network, and only the new services (video and data) are deployed using the newly installed FTTP platforms. In another, the overlay is built but not turned on until the subscriber takes up a new service. At that point, all services are transitioned to the new network completely.

  • Greenfield: In this scenario, new FTTP facilities support all voice, video, and data services in the area.

  • Hybrid: There are at least two options in this scenario. One includes fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC), in which fiber would run only to the aggregation box alongside a housing development, in which individual homes are still served with copper links. This setup calls for FTTC as well as FTTH gear to be included in the same passive optical network (PON). Voice and data services would be fed through the FTTC links. The FTTH equipment would be deployed only to those who subscribe to video services.

    In another hybrid scenario, designed for areas where ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line) isn't available, the FTTC gear could be used for existing voice services, and the FTTH for data or video.

The Bells are asking that each FTTP system support up to 32 Optical Network Termination (ONT) units, whereby end users get access to the services from home. Each ONT should deliver anywhere from 64 kbit/s to 100 Mbit/s, depending on what's needed, say sources familiar with the RFP.

For the customer premises unit at a single-family, "greenfield" home, the RFP calls for two POTS lines (with the ability to add four more lines, if needed), one Ethernet interface, and one RF video port for television.

Two big items not listed in the RFP, as reported earlier, include details on the optical distribution network feeding the FTTP network and what kinds of video headends should deliver the video. Also missing are the kinds of customer set-top boxes that should receive and process the video.

These kinds of gaps raise questions about how serious the RBOCs really are about FTTH, and how much they'll actually deploy if they do initiate rollouts next year. If the vendors involved can't keep costs down, or if the carriers run into technical or regulatory roadblocks with video deployment, the promise of triple-play services via FTTP may be the year's biggest ghost story.

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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