nynex changes local loops to fiber
To deliver both broadband multimedia data and traditional telephone services to its customers, nynex this month began changing its local-loop network from copper to fiber. Fiber-optic cables will increasingly replace the copper cables that now carry voice and data from the company`s central offices to customer neighborhoods.
Under a five-year contract with Next Level Communications, Rohnert Park, CA, nynex will upgrade one million customer lines in Boston, New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, NY. Based on how well this migration goes, nynex may then decide to expand the contract to four million more lines.
According to Richard Jalkut, president of the nynex Telecommunications Group in New York City, "This new technology will enable nynex to bring fiber optics closer to our customers than we have ever been before. This fiber-rich network will be less vulnerable to the elements, offer superior speed and reliability, and will proactively detect potential problems before they affect our customers."
Next Level Communications, a subsidiary of General Instrument Corp., is supplying NLevel3 Broadband Access equipment for the project. NLevel3 uses Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) protocols to carry Integrated Services Digital Network, Internet, video, and standard telephone traffic over fiber-optic and coaxial-cable lines to users` homes and businesses.
"This selection by nynex represents a major milestone for mass deployment of ATM-based technology," says Peter W. Keeler, Next Level Communications co-president.
Walter Silvia, nynex vice president of broadband services, adds that approximately 30,000 customer lines should be on fiber-distribution networks by the end of the year. In most cases, the fiber will run from central switching offices to neighborhood nodes feeding up to 16 customers. From these nodes, standard coaxial cable will carry broadband data and video into customer homes, and traditional copper loops will carry telephone traffic. However, fiber can run directly into the customer`s premises when higher bandwidth is needed (see figure).
Video service will require installing Synchronous Optical Network rings to connect local central offices with others containing the ATM switches, Silvia says.
Once nynex installs fiber in an area, it will test telephone services first before adding video and broadband data. "This solution appeals to telecommunications companies because it enables them to augment their current communications networks for advanced telephony service, then incrementally upgrade their facilities to provide broadband services in concert with market demand," explains Richard S. Friedland, General Instrument chief executive and president. Other regional Bell operating companies and many local- exchange carriers are also considering using NLevel3 systems to compete with cable-TV providers, he adds. But the nynex project is one of the first field trials.
In fact, General Instrument acquired Next Level Communications in 1995 because it wanted to use NLevel3 technology to boost the company`s fiber-to-the-curb market share. The nynex contract represents General Instrument`s first major fiber-to-the-curb project.
While nynex expands its fiber-network infrastructure over the next several years, it also plans to use Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (adsl) technology to deliver broadband services, says Silvia. This approach would cost the company only about $900 per customer line, whereas hybrid fiber/coaxial cables could cost at least twice that amount. But the new fiber cable`s higher implementation cost buys the ability to add unlimited new video and data services while maintaining copper-based telephone services to the home.
Last fall, nynex began testing adsl`s capabilities with the help of Lotus Development Corp. and Westell Technologies Inc., Oswego, IL. In tests using Lotus Notes to access the World Wide Web, build corporate intranets, and conduct high-bandwidth telecommuting, the companies found that adsl supported 1.5-Mbit/sec dedicated links from central offices to 60 Lotus employees` homes. A typical Web page downloaded up to 50 times faster than through a 28.8-kbit/sec modem, nynex reports.
Cas Skrzypczak, president of nynex Science and Technology, White Plains, NY, contends that adsl is an interim measure while nynex starts to migrate selected portions of the network to ATM over fiber. q
Dave Powell writes from Winchester, MA.