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Managing Editor

RBOCs jointly push fiber closer

May 29, 20034 mins

Three RBOCs this week adopted a set of common technical requirements for extending fiber-optic cabling and equipment to homes and businesses.

BellSouth, SBC and Verizon say the industry standard-compliant Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) specifications will grease the skids for deployment of next-generation broadband networks that deliver high-bandwidth Internet, voice and video services and applications to enterprises and residences. Such on-demand applications include PC backup, telecommuting, high-definition video conferencing and premises surveillance, interactive gaming and photo sharing, among others.

Approximately 10% of businesses in the U.S. have fiber access to the service provider network, industry executives have stated.

The RBOCs say the specifications will enable equipment manufacturers to develop and build cheaper FTTP equipment for them and other service providers. The RBOCs issued a letter to telecom equipment manufacturers this week stating that they will soon be seeking proposals for equipment based on the new FTTP requirements.

One such vendor awaiting that RFP is Wave7 Optics of Alpharetta, Ga.

“As a whole to the FTTH (Fiber to the Home) industry, this is great news,” says Thomas Tighe, president and CEO of Wave7. “We’re always big believers that when the industry picks up, access is where it is going to start.”

Wave7 is not in any RBOC trials to date but Tighe says they’ve seen Wave7’s product and proposition through paper analysis and some are interested. Wave7 makes a Layer 3 Ethernet switch for businesses, multi-dwelling units, high rises and residential areas that delivers up to 500M bit/sec per user over fiber extended up to 80 kilometers, Tighe claims.

Analysts say the FTTP consensus could have broad implications for the industry.

“This is a really big thing,” says Daniel Briere, CEO of TeleChoice in Mansfield Center, Conn. “It applies volume to a market that hasn’t had volume yet. It’s a major, ‘get the industry over a hurdle’ price reduction (and) a tacit acknowledgement that the networks RBOCs have today are not going to cut it vs. cable.”

Briere says the RFP could call for as many as 1 million units per year. He says its also favors the Full Service Access Network (FSAN) standards and broadband passive optical networking (BPON) equipment over the Ethernet in the First Mile standards and Ethernet PON gear.

“PON is the next DSL,” Briere says. “In the next five years, it will all be PON.”

The EFM Alliance (EFMA) did not dispute Briere’s assertion, though they were still upbeat about the joint RFP.

“From the the EFMA perspective, the announcement is viewed as positive since its a strong indication that the North American ILECs will be restarting their build-out of broadband capabilities in the access networks,” says Craig Easley, president of the EFMA. “All three companies making the announcement have been actively involved in the IEEE p802.3ah EFM project and are looking at first-mile solutions.

“The FTTP spec looks to deliver IP and Ethernet services over a PON transport with support for very high-speed DSL,” Easley continues. “Since the existing flavors of PONs are older and more mature, it’s not all that surprising to see them referenced in the RFP. PONs are able to carry Ethernet and IP traffic too, albeit quite a bit less efficiently than a native Ethernet EPON transport would.”

Meanhwile, Briere says the RFP will also catalyze consolidation in the industry as large vendors such as Lucent, Nortel and Siemens, acquire smaller PON vendors to respond to the FTTP proposal.

The only RBOC that did not endorse the FTTP spec was Qwest.

“We did know about the FTTH RFP,” a Qwest spokeswoman says. “We were approached by SBC, Verizon and BellSouth to participate in the RFP, but after conducting our own internal analysis on FTTH, we determined that it didn’t meet our own success threshold.  As a result, we declined participation in the RFP.

“We continue to look at ways to extend our network in order to support broadband services,” she concluded.

BellSouth, SBC, and Verizon plan to independently deploy FTTP equipment and networks beginning next year, pending resolution of related regulatory issues, among other factors. The FCC is expected to soon issue its final order under its Triennial Review of network interconnection regulations. That ruling, the first of several anticipated, is expected to include provisions that more clearly set forth the FCC’s policy regarding new network technologies like FTTP, including the extent to which unbundling and pricing regulations such as those imposed on traditional copper technologies will apply on a nationwide basis.

The FCC also has additional proceedings under way to address other potential regulatory hurdles to deployment of these new technologies, according to the RBOCs.

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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