AFC issues not holding up Verizon, says Lacouture

October 13, 2004 Orlando, FL -- AFC's well-publicized delays in meeting all its targets have not presented a significant impediment to Verizon's fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout, according to Paul Lacouture, president of the carrier's Network Services Group. In an interview with Lightwave Editorial Director Stephen Hardy at last week's FTTH Conference, Lacouture said that Verizon's greatest growing pains have come in hiring and training engineers on new equipment and tools.

October 13, 2004 Orlando, FL -- AFC's well-publicized delays in meeting all its targets have not presented a significant impediment to Verizon's fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout, according to Paul Lacouture, president of the carrier's Network Services Group. In an interview with Lightwave Editorial Director Stephen Hardy at last week's Fiber to the Home Conference in Orlando, FL, Lacouture said that Verizon's greatest growing pains have come in hiring and training engineers on new equipment and tools, including working with Category 5 cabling in homes.

"I've never met a supplier that has met all their targets," said Lacouture in discussing AFC's performance as Verizon's main supplier of broadband passive optical network (BPON) central office and premises equipment. In most cases, Verizon and AFC have managed "workarounds" that have enabled the systems currently deployed to operate satisfactorily, he said. Lacouture also expressed confidence that AFC's equipment would eventually meet Verizon's initial expectations.

That said, the carrier is working with potential second sources in its lab. Verizon's original plans called for a second source next year, and Lacouture expects that vendor to be onboard on schedule. Meanwhile, he said that Verizon has required AFC to demonstrate interoperability with optical network terminals (the customer premises equipment standard in BPON architectures) from multiple vendors, a list of whom the carrier has provided.

Lacouture said that his installation costs have run a bit higher than his initial estimates, although he expects those costs to decrease as his crews gain more experience. Verizon's current strategy is to pass homes and businesses with fiber, then run drop cables from that fiber to the home or business when a subscriber signs up for service. In addition to the drop cable installation, Verizon technicians install a router (either wired or wireless, at the customer's discretion) in the subscriber's premises and, when using a wired router, connect it to the customer's PCs via Category 5 cable. The carrier uses existing phone wire for voice service, and expects to hook to existing in-building coax when it offers video services, likely next year. Lacouture said current IP video technology still has economic and technical issues to resolve before it is ready for Verizon's requirements.

Looking toward the future, Lacouture stressed that while Verizon chose the ATM-based BPON approach for its current deployment because it was the most mature of the available technologies, the carrier's upgrade options remain open. "We're engineering this so it can be upgradeable," he said. "I can just change out the electronics and it can be GPON or EPON." The key, he said, is that Verizon will only have to lay the major cable infrastructure once.

Lacouture said at this time he does not have a preference for the ITU's GPON or the IEEE's Gigabit Ethernet PON approach to upgrading network speeds. He said that future decisions along these lines will be influenced by his application requirements and the speed with which the technologies have matured.

--SMH

More in Business