It remains to be seen whether the RBOCs bite as strong as they bark, but there was plenty of bravado on display as SBC and Verizon presented at UBS. "We believe we can be the 2nd largest video provider in our footprint within 5 years," SBC chmn/CEO Edward Whitacre said. The RBOC will launch VoIP in all its markets in early ’05, he said. VoIP would be marketed to the company’s 5mln DSL subs. While SBC offered up grand predictions for the future, Verizon evp, CFO Doreen Toben provided food-for- thought with real numbers. A few months after launching in Keller, TX (15K HHs), Verizon’s fiber-to-the-home "Fios" service has seen penetration of about 15%. About 2/3s of those customers were dial-up, cable modem or non-Verizon DSL users, Toben said. What’s more, Verizon’s overall broadband penetration in Keller has jumped to 26% from 13% since it deployed the advanced FTTH platform (Cfax, 10/29). Verizon also says about 1/3 of Keller’s Fios users are selecting its 15Mbps tier (Fios offers 5Mpbs and 30Mbps tiers, too). "We recognize that this is only one market with about 10 weeks of marketing, but what we can say is that these are very positive results so far," Toben said. — SBC plans to start construction early ’05 on "Project Lightspeed," the fiber optic-based network for IP-delivered digital TV, VoIP and super high-speed broadband. Whitacre projected TV services would launch on the network in 4Q ’05. "We understand that IP is the future," he said. VoIP trials are underway in L.A., Dallas, Chicago and San Antonio. SBC’s already been providing VoIP for businesses, Whitacre said, noting a recent contract to provide a VoIP network for some 50K Ford employees. — Mergers?Whitacre brushed aside the notion that BellSouth might merge with SBC. It would be a "regulatory morass," he said.

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