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Sunday, August 03, 2003

 

An interesting pair of articles by XCHANGE on the Bells' FTTP (fiber to the premises) initiative

An interesting pair of articles by XCHANGE on the Bells' FTTP (fiber to the premises) initiative

"The Future of PON: More Thoughts on the RBOC FTTP RFP"

"FTTP RFP Countdown: One Week Until the Short List"

These two articles on the Bell's FTTP (fiber to the premises) RFP (request for proposals) are interesting for several reasons.

First, they report the Bells' time-line for the RFP, which is aggressive (vendor responses were due by July 21, the short list is to be picked by August 8 and vendor evaluations are to completed by mid-September).

Second, the first article gives some specific numbers on where FTTH transport pricing has been recently and how much lower it needs to go to get the Bells' interest.

Third, Danny Briere with Telechoice, the consultant cited in both articles, is saying what many of us have been thinking all along about the viability of DSL:
"“this RFP for fiber is the first major tacit acknowledgement by the RBOCs involved that their networks — including the DSL services — won’t cut it against cable. Cable can throw sheer bandwidth at the problem because they have it. DSL has to beg for bandwidth and is erratic at that, based on the loop length, line conditions, etc. Fiber will provide a more reliable services platform because of the upside on the bandwidth. And it’s a big vote for PON [passive optical networking].”

Many of the other articles I've read so far on the FTTP initiative have either taken the Bells totally at their word on deploying lots of fiber or else they've been totally cynical, pointing out the many times in the past the Bells have flirted with fiber to the home and made aggressive (and unkept) promises to regulators. (I remember personally visiting one of these showcase FTTP sites with a then-new high resolution OTDR — optical time domain reflectometer — design back in 1989.) I think Mr. Briere's sense of the Bells' possible motivations makes more sense.

What I don't know is whether the RBOCs (Bells) themselves really understand Mr. Briere's point. They should be motivated to role out FTTP, but are they yet? Is the RFP really the "tacit acknowledgement" Mr. Briere is saying it is or just a smokescreen being put on to influence Congress, state legislatures and the FCC (who is still writing up the results of their triennial review of the regulations governing the Bells).

If the Bells are serious, can they then pull off a successful FTTP roll-out? I'm confident they can figure out the transport technology and the outside plant rebuilding, but what about the video programming and the marketing? I'm not so sure — this would be a new area for most Bell employees and would require a real shift in the Bells' corporate culture. The history of the descendants of AT&T since its' breakup in 1982 shows that they've managed technology changes better than corporate culture changes.

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