Need for speed drives new telecom expansion

CHICAGO'Networking technologies and the types of data they carry change, but one thing stays the same: 'Speed sells," according to Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications.

Fiber to the premises, residential as well as business, is the hottest seller in the communications company's portfolio, Seidenberg said in his keynote address to the SuperComm trade show this morning. "And it's being driven by a demand for end-user speed."

Converged communications'putting voice, video and any other data on the same network'is again a hot topic at this year's major telecommunications trade show. More and more, these services do not care what medium they travel over, and the digital networks do not care what kind of traffic they are carrying. The one common thing demanded by all these network services is speed'not only on the backbone, but to the user's premises.

Seidenberg said that the roll out of wireless and fiber-optic networks to consumers and business to deliver this speed is the driving force behind modest growth in the telecommunications industry, which has reported double-digit decreases in the last three years.

Verizon has spent $73 billion since 2000 expanding its network and upgrading it from analog to digital. The company now is in an ambitious fiber-to-the-premises roll out that will deliver download speeds of 30 Mbps. The new fiber is passing an average of 35,000 homes a week, and the company hopes to have access to 3 million homes by the end of the year, Seidenberg said.
Verizon will use this cable to launch its FiOS TV service later this year. It already is offering some FiOS business services in limited test markets.

Verizon sees FiOS as an all-purpose single pipe into households that will enable any type of digital communications or networking, including video on demand and interactive television.
But although fiber to the premises may be all things to all who can get it, it will not be a communications panacea. Seidenberg identified several issues that industry wants to see addressed to enable more widespread implementation of this technology, including protection'both technical and legal'of intellectual property rights in digital formats, and reform of telecommunications regulation.

And because of the expense involved in extending fiber networks, the technology is likely to expand the digital divide between those with access to the latest technology and those on the fringes.

Wireless broadband is being looked to as a way of bridging the divide, but the cost per customer of this technology means it is unlikely to make high-speed communications universally available anytime soon.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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