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Staying En-Touch With Reality on Fiber

While IPTV and VOIP are all the rage these days, it is traditional-style phone and digital cable TV that continue to bring home the bacon. At least that's a logical conclusion one could draw from the actual fiber service offerings of many telcos.

Verizon is the obvious example, shelling out billions to deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) to initially offer only POTS, RF-based cable TV services, and high-speed Internet access. No IPTV on the menu there. And Verizon is not alone. Some smaller telcos, utilities, and independent broadband providers are following a similar path. Take En-Touch Systems Inc. Please!

En-Touch, which offers bundled broadband services in planned communities of huge houses (called McMansions in some circles), just announced an EPON deal with Wave7 Optics. En-Touch is rolling out Wave7's Trident7 Optical Access Platform in new developments expected to pass 28,000 homes and businesses in the Houston area.

According to the Wave7 and En-Touch press release: "All networks will offer a 'quad play' package of traditional ('POTS') telephone service, RF television (currently 239 channels, including HDTV), 5 to 15 Mbit/s high-speed Internet, and security monitoring services."

While there is nothing innovative on the menu, En-Touch has managed to breathe new life into the already tired and taboo term "quad play" (see Quadruple Play Is Out) with its inclusion of security monitoring, as opposed to mobile, as the fourth service in the broadband bundle. Who would think security is a prime concern in isolated, premium, new housing developments?

Eyeing the demographics of its customers, En-Touch touts its full-service bundle as an alternative for the wide-open wallet crowd. For a mere $186 per month, En-Touch customers can "get everything." That includes 6-Mbit/s Internet service, POTS with eight calling features, digital cable TV with five premium channels, alarm monitoring, and home wiring maintenance. That in-home maintenance is especially valuable for new homes built with structured wiring - connections poised to fail any decade now.

For thrifty consumers, En-Touch offers 10-Mbit/s Internet for $30 per month and local phone for $12 monthly. No IPTV, no VOIP.

In industry publications like this, IPTV and VOIP are often touted as services. In reality, the terms better define infrastructure - infrastructure that is used to deliver the same video and voice services that consumers currently enjoy, albeit with a few added features. The carriers that understand this seem increasingly content to simply use their new fiber to offer old-fashioned services, while ensuring they have enough capacity and flexibility to go "IP everything" down the road if there is a business case for it. While unexciting, it is certainly prudent.

- Michael Harris, Chief Analyst, Cable Digital News

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