The frontier in the vicinity of Houston is relatively crowded with multichannel providers, including Time Warner Cable (730,000 customers) and the 24% of the area’s 1.9 million households that are DBS subscribers, according to Media Business Corp. Still, Houston-based independent service provider Optical Entertainment Network sees an opening, and in May will begin to deploy Fision, a fiber-to-the home network delivering video, voice and high-speed data signals via Internet protocol technology. The first service area will be Cypress-Fairbanks, (population 200,000). Initially, Fision will offer 200 video channels, Internet access at a super-fast rate of 10 Mbps and digital phone service with caller ID, call waiting and three-way dial features. The video portion of what Optical calls its Triple Play Plus package will include video on demand with 800 titles, programmed by distributor ViewNow, plus 25 high-definition channels including local broadcast stations and 55 Spanish-language networks to draw Houston’s large Latino population. OEN declined to provide price details. "The marketing message is we’re offering video, voice and data like it’s never been offered before, as in providing more channels and high-speed capability from the get-go," says Optical chief marketing officer Albert Estrada. Once Fision is up in Cypress-Fairbanks, Optical CEO Thomas Wendt says it will be relatively easy to spread to other parts of Houston. Instead of laying its own fiber plant, Fision leases capacity from a third party that has 8,000 miles of plant all over the region. Interestingly, that party is Phonoscope, an independent cable MSO with more than 16,000 customers in several Houston suburbs. With the majority of Phonoscope’s plant aerial, "you don’t need to tear the streets out," Wendt says. "You string up near the phone lines and that saves tremendous cost." Under the lease arrangement, Wendt estimates Optical will spend $35-$50 million to make Fision available to 1.6 million Houston homes. Wendt wouldn’t say when Fision would be available throughout Houston. Angel investors in Houston and Dallas provided seed money for the venture. Time Warner Cable in Houston declined an opportunity to comment on Fision, as did the MSO’s corporate staff in Stamford, Conn.