Late last year, Verizon selected AFC (now Tellabs), Sumitomo Electric Lightwave, Pirelli Communications Cable and Systems and Fiber Optics Networks Solutions as suppliers for its $1 billion fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) initiative. In May, Verizon began deploying in Keller, in north central Texas. How quickly Verizon reaches its goal of 1 million homes is an open question. Its partners on the underlying technical standards—SBC and BellSouth—are sitting on the sidelines, for now. But other players are in the field. A report by the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council and the Telecommunications Industry Association says this kind of technology has reached 128 communities in 28 states. Cable responds There will be a few FTTP deployments in cable this year, predicts Michael Wearsch, vice president of North American sales for Wave7Optics. He says the likely scenarios are greenfield projects in markets with low penetration. Competitive pressure alone won’t trigger deployment. Charter Communications, for instance, is the operator in Keller, Texas, where Verizon is deploying. But John Brouse, Charter director of network implementation, says there is no plan to push fiber there, or for that matter, in any other system this year. "We don’t have anything on our plate now," he says. But Brouse is not sitting still. He represents Charter on the FTTH Council and plans to attend the group’s conference again this October. In June, he participated in an International Telecommunication Union’s fiber workshop in Geneva, where he says he began focusing on "lifecycle cost." "I have an opportunity to design out operation and maintenance costs," he says. In that light, he favors minimal actives; more particularly, what he calls a radio frequency, passive optical network (R-PON) approach. Back to business Given the elastic category of "premises," much activity on the FTTP front will turn on the industry’s commercial services gambit. Responding to requirements expressed by Time Warner Cable, for instance, Metrobility Optical Systems and Corning Cable Systems joined forces to bring coarse wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM)-delivered, 100 Mbps Ethernet to businesses in the Raleigh, N.C., area. Separately, Time Warner deployed CWDM technology from Harmonic to meet demand from businesses and educational institutions in the Houston area. Not that Time Warner thinks fiber to the business (FTTB) is the only way to go. At the CTAM Commercial Services seminar, Jeff King, EVP Time Warner Cable and president of Road Runner, said the industry should use a variety of means to reach this market. Trenching techniques have improved, but fiber is not always the best solution. "Go wireless the last mile," he said. Several years in the works, alternative access tools are now catching on. Wireless Bypass, a provider of point-to-point and point-to-multipoint wireless line extension technology that transmits cable’s 6 MHz data channels, is aggressively deploying with Charter and another top MSO. "We can’t even keep up with orders," David Blumberg, vice president and COO, says. Most critical, said King, is overcoming cable’s traditional, blinders-on construction mentality that looks straight ahead, without regard to opportunities that lie a quarter mile on either side. —Jonathan Tombes Making Money Off Set-tops:
How Much is that Data in the Window?
Reducing cost structure is an ongoing mission in the set-top business. But so is adding features, particularly those that can generate revenue. The Retriever feature for Scientific-Atlanta’s Explorer set-tops will enhance operators’ bottom line in a number of ways, says Larry Bradner, the president of S-A unit SciCare Broadband Services. The Retriever returns an avalanche of information from two main areas: operations and customer usage. The operational data can be used to predict and avoid problems both on the network and within the box. This data also can help in architectural decisions such as when and where to subdivide nodes. The customer usage data can enable the operator to be proactive. Bradner says that precise information on viewer habits must be aggregated at the node level to comply with privacy laws and regulations. In general, though, Retriever can compile data on what people are watching, and precisely how they are watching it, in a far more detailed way than previously possible. Advantage: Ad sales While this level of specificity can help operators plan bandwidth management and analog-to-digital shifting, the real winner may be the local ad sales efforts. Bradner says that the data turned up by Retriever can fill in some of the blanks that have plagued sales efforts to date. Today, he says, there often is insufficient Nielsen Media Research data upon which local businesses can justify buying time. That could change. "We think Retriever can fill in some of the dashes," he says. "It’s not exactly Nielsen, but the numbers are interesting enough and have enough integrity to make a better argument than can be made today." Mark Eagle, the direct of project engineering for Time Warner Cable’s Raleigh Division, says that there are no plans to implement either Retriever or a system aimed at the same viewership data aggregation from Navic Networks. However, Eagle thinks real-time information is useful. "The key is to have the individual set-top box collect the information at a given point in time and record it, as opposed to having a central agency collect it" over a period of time, Eagle says. "Collection and storage of that data allows us to know what channel is selected at a specific point in time." —Carl Weinschenk

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Verizon, NYC Reach Settlement

Verizon has an agreement with New York City that settles proceedings against it after the city claimed it had failed to meet buildout terms for its Fios network under its cable franchise agreement.

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