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Cable Tech

Qwest Building FTTP Network

While Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) was bidding [read: begging] for MCI Inc. (Nasdaq: MCIP), the company was also building its very first fiber to the premises (FTTP) network in a new community south of Denver. The community, called RidgeGate, has homes that start in the $200,000 price range, and it's the first place that Qwest has ever provided a true FTTP deployment delivering voice, video, and data services to consumers.

For Qwest to have an FTTP network is interesting since the company has traditionally lagged most major next-generation access networks in North America (see Verizon Announces FTTP Services and Inside SBC's IPTV Factory). While other carriers are touting major new access networks and 90-plus percent DSL coverage, Qwest has 1.5 Mbit/s DSL available to about 67 percent of its customers. The carrier also offers video services via a partnership with DirecTV.

The RidgeGate community isn't the only fiber access network Qwest owns. The carrier does have two small fiber to the node (FTTN) networks in its territory -- one in Phoenix and one in Highlands Ranch, Colo. -- but those were left over from more than five years ago, when the former RBOC US West was making a push to provide data services. Qwest says it has 46,000 subscribers to its TV-over-VDSL service in those areas.

Like those FTTN networks, the RidgeGate FTTP network wasn't Qwest's idea. "They came to us with their vision of what they were looking for… and we determined that fiber to the home was the best fit," says a Qwest spokeswoman.

Qwest won't say what RidgeGate had to do to get the ball rolling, but it did disclose that each RidgeGate residence will have a 1.5-Mbit/s Internet connection paid for through homeowner's association dues -- so a broadband connection will be as standard with each home as electricity and indoor plumbing.

A diagram of the Qwest FTTP network's signal flow and a home's inside wiring can be found by clicking here.

The RidgeGate network's data capacity is 40 Mbit/s for each home, but the maximum speed Qwest is offering now is 3 Mbit/s. By comparison, Verizon Communications Inc.'s (NYSE: VZ) Keller, Texas, deployment has a network capacity of 100 Mbit/s per home with 15 Mbit/s being the lowest connection speed offered (see Verizon Flaunts Fiber Plan).

Speeds and feeds aside, RidgeGate will eventually be a huge place. The community is set on 3,500 acres, and 260 homes are being constructed in the first phase of buildouts; only five residences are occupied as of this writing. But over the next 40 years, the community will have between 10,000 and 12,000 homes, according to RidgeGate spokeswoman Sheryl Barto.

As for Qwest, it is talking to other home builders and planners about fiber networks, but won't do anything other than greenfield builds. "We're continuing to look at FTTH and will deploy it where it makes sense," the Qwest spokeswoman says.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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