Good News for Telecom Customers: No Peace in Our Time

Carl Weinschenk

The race between the telephone companies and cable operators goes on. That's a good thing, as throughputs rise and prices decline.


Cable Digital News offers an upbeat assessment of Alloptic, a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) vendor that sells arms to both the cable and phone sides. The company just raised $24 million, which it will use to support its MicroNode product and buttress its international business.


The sense is that the cable industry is looking for the next step in its development. It reigned supreme for a long time. During the past few years, however, the telcos have gotten aggressive with fiber -- in the form of Verizon's FiOS, AT&T's U-verse and many smaller projects -- and the wireless industry has gone from a nice idea to the verge of deploying high-capacity platforms such as WiMax. The cellular industry also has upped its game with 3G services.


The industries are engaged in a game of can-you-top-this. This Telephony Online story says that Verizon last month tested 100 Gigabit per second (Gbps) transmissions. The trial, which traversed a 312-mile path between Miami and Tampa, employed Alcatel-Lucent's 1625 LambdaXtreme Transport platform. The company said that super-fast service will be commercially available in late 2009 or 2010. This comes just after the telco announced an upgrade of its backbone to 40 Gbps.


The cable industry is not throwing in the towel. Its main responses are RF over glass (RFOG) and the third iteration of its Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) .


This is a very succinct overview of RFOG at Connected Home 2 Go. The new approach with the vaguely amusing acronym lets cable operators deploy fiber to homes without ripping out their existing headend (a cable operator's main technical facility) gear. Though they are limited to the bandwidth of the original coaxial-based system, RFOG is seen as an intermediate step to full fiber rollouts. The writer says that there is no RFOG standard, so operators must make sure that what they buy allows them to seamlessly migrate to full fiber status when they are ready to. (In other words, they must cut through the RFOG to buy the right gear.)


The cable industry increasingly is being identified with Comcast, so it seems fitting that the operator is making one of the early aggressive moves with DOCSIS 3.0. Ars Technica reports that the operator plans to employ the new spec in 20 percent of its footprint by the end of 2008.


DOCSIS 3.0, the story says, won't enable cable to catch up to FiOS, but it makes the game tighter -- which is important from both the marketing and operational perspectives. DOCSIS 3.0 also adds security and management features. The story says it's no surprise that areas in which Comcast is under siege from Verizon, such as Massachusetts and Virginia, will be the early rollout sites for the new cable platform. Downstream DOCSIS 3.0 services will be available before upstream.

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