Cable’s Triple Play Here are some letters we recently received at sister publication, "CT’s Pipeline" on the topic of RBOCs competing with cable’s video/data/voice "triple play." The main issue with the the RBOCs and other telephony providers around the world is how they cost-effectively provide IP connectivity to the last mile, while leveraging their huge investment in older switching architectures? Without a doubt, the RBOCs have an advantage in that they have been playing with IP connectivity for decades and have a great deal of experience in creating, operating and maintaining packet-based networks. The cable industry has relied almost solely on the broadcasting model, only recently investigating the most efficient way to carry IP traffic over coax. The cable modem and its universal specification have gone a long way toward moving cable operators into the IP world. The ease with which new services can be added to a cable system, not to mention the 870 MHz rebuilds, have allowed cable operators to stay a couple of steps ahead of the RBOCs, while they consider rebuilding millions of miles of copper. There also is another factor on the horizon, and that is Internet telephony. No one is currently considering what effect this will have on the cable industry and RBOC strategies. Packet-based networks are really the only efficient way to carry triple-play services. As technology brings fiber closer to the premises, last-mile strategies will be developed that will begin to eclipse cable’s current advantage. The only way to keep the RBOCs at bay is to leverage the existing HFC networks to roll out high-quality services, push fiber deeper into the network and maximize it with CWDM and DWDM and, over time, move away from the broadcast model and adopt a more "client-server" approach. Once the cable industry begins providing native IP connectivity, it will be able to effectively compete for the long term. This competition between RBOCs and cable has already been taking place in many developing countries around the world. Recent privatizations and market deregulation in Latin America have opened up the opportunity for telephony, cable and wireless operators to compete head to head for triple-play services. Since many of these countries have an underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructure, new technologies can be implemented from the very beginning, avoiding many of the problems faced by RBOCs in the United States. The main reason why triple play has not surged is due to the relative economic instability of the region. This affects all service providers equally. It will be interesting to see what technologies take hold and perhaps will be an insight into how things will develop in the United States. — Steven C. Traynor, VP, Engineering and Technical Services, JAL & Associates I have heard the nay-sayers for what seems like years state how fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) will never happen because of the high construction costs and the inability of business plans to support them. Thus, cable is the most cost-effective solution for the last mile. Well, apparently Verizon is now ready to step up and bet the farm on this architecture, and in doing so, if successful, will change the face of the entire cable industry. Unless we are willing to sit back and watch our customer base shrink to the point where we are eliminated from competing, we must evolve as Verizon is being forced to for survival. — Tom Freeman Cox Communications, New Orleans

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