A win for fiber-to-the-curb, switched-digital video

Sept. 1, 1996

A win for fiber-to-the-curb, switched-digital video

On the front page of Lightwave, July 1995, the leading news story headline reads: "Technology pendulum swings to switched-digital video." The story dealt with Bell Atlantic Corp. and its decision to change from hybrid fiber/coaxial-cable technology to fiber-to-the-curb, switched-digital video technology for cost savings and higher performance.

After just a year of investigation, Bell Atlantic has now commited to fiber-to-the-curb, switched-digital video technology with a multiyear, multimillion-dollar project to millions of homes--a commitment that the company expects will lead to 50% cost savings over copper technology (see story on page 1).

This watershed decision comes at a propitious time--just months after congressional approval of open communications service competition via the Telecommunications Act of 1996 last February. During this time, the regional Bell operating companies have been laboriously studying which interactive multimedia services to provide, what prices to charge, and which fiber-optic platform to deploy.

It appeared that the Bell companies were waiting for one of their own to step to the forefront as the pioneering network and service leader. The others would then benefit from the leader`s mistakes and streak past with improvements. This market strategy looks formidable in theory.

But what if the leader selects a full-service, "future-proof" fiber-network technology (see Lightwave, August 1996, page 4), such as fiber-to-the-curb, switched-digital video? Accordingly, the network contains the high-capacity and virtually unlimited bandwidth needed initially to deliver higher-quality and more-reliable additional and advanced telephony services. Its bandwidth easily and quickly accepts the incorporation of digital video broadcast services, whenever needed. Indeed, the fiber network stands ready to handle broadband Internet access, online, data-communication and interactive multimedia services, when available, as well as other new and futuristic digital services.

What`s more, all these comprehensive, integrated and innovative fiber-network services are being moved closer to customers--virtually to their curbside--with increased dependability, flexibility and efficiency. With switched-digital video, customers also receive dedicated bandwidth for added availability, management and security. And existing copper wires and coaxial cables are used to make the final drop connection.

Equally important, reasonable revenues are being generated on the leader`s bottom line--incrementally in step with service migration. In addition, recent industry cost studies indicate that fiber-network costs are rapidly approaching first-cost parity with copper, incurring fewer expenses after just one year of operation and maintenance, and piling up significant savings over several years of usage. Besides, the technical merits of fiber over copper are irrefutable.

Furthermore, what if the leader commits to deploying this versatile fiber network over six years at a cost of several hundred million dollars for nearly 10 million customers? With this plan, the leader can now deliver narrowband and wideband services upon demand. It can deliver each service separately or at the same time; and it can add new services when they become available.

The leader`s fiber-to-the-curb, switched-digital platform can, therefore, start with an initial low-capacity customer demand that calls for delivering voice and low-speed data services over a telephony drop from a curb pedestal to the home. Then, when needed, the platform adapts readily to the demand for sending broadcast digital video as well as various data and multimedia TV services over a high-speed drop from the pedestal to the home. It even accommodates a range of services across both types of drops.

In this approach, the leader can custom-deliver the desired services at any time because the platform from the curb pedestal back to the central office contains common fiber-optic equipment. Armed with this fiber-to-the-curb, switched-digital network technology, the leader becomes the winner. q

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