• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

Fiber is scarce in last mile, says research firm

Aug 05, 20032 mins
Cellular NetworksNetworking

* Wireless could provide fiber-to-premises alternative

Metropolitan-area Ethernet services are strong contenders for eradicating last-mile network congestion. They leverage your existing LAN expertise and offer Ethernet’s economies of scale to deliver lots of bandwidth for a relatively low cost. Finally, you can turn up the speed of your access connections without having to install new circuits and CPE.

A no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, for now, your ability to get metro Ethernet services is pretty limited because of a dearth of fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections in this country.

Only 10.2% of the commercial buildings in the U.S. with 20 or more employees have access to fiber-optic last-mile connections, according to a research note released last week by WAN consulting firm Vertical Systems Group. That means that Ethernet technology as a WAN transport option is still in the development stage, the firm says.

It is encouraging that incumbent local-exchange carriers (ILEC) BellSouth, SBC and Verizon have a joint RFP on the street for FTTP infrastructure equipment based on passive-optical network technology. Their apparent intent is to build out more high-capacity fiber to customer doorsteps and achieve economies of scale with demand for a common technology. The FCC has motivated them by deregulating new fiber networks and eliminating unbundling rules requiring that they share the networks with competitors.

But the ILECs’ efforts aren’t likely to result in commercial services anytime soon, observes Rosemary Cochran, principal at Vertical Systems. She points out that the carriers still must select vendors, then conduct tests and customer trials before commercial services will be made available.

In the meantime, if you need significant capacity in a metro area where digging your own trenches and laying cable isn’t affordable or politically kosher, one multimegabit-speed alternative is to use rooftop-mounted wireless LAN bridges. These devices have long been available, but newer versions based on the 802.11a standard offer compelling prices and capacity.

More on wireless bridging next time. Meanwhile, if you receive the Network World Fusion “Wireless in the Enterprise” newsletter, check out this week’s article, “What’s new in wireless bridging?”