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'No Incentive' For Fiber
SBC chief not optimistic about FTTP
by Karl Bode 09:25AM Wednesday Sep 10 2003
SBC Chief Edward Whitacre Jr says he sees just "doesn't see the incentive for FTTP" (fiber to the premises). Despite the fact that the new FCC triennial review frees the bells from having to share new fiber deployments with competitors, the SBC boss, speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference, said the technology was still too cost prohibitive to be seriously considered. Whitacre pegged FTTH costs at $2,000 per home, and notes he probably wouldn't be any more likely to consider FTTH even if prices dropped several hundred dollars. Whitacre labeled the FCC's recent rulings a "huge disappointment," noting that it "didn't change much on UNE-p and it didn't do much on the broadband side either."

Though many industry opinions fell somewhere in the middle in regards to the ruling, the Fiber industry seemed to be the lone smiling face when the ruling was finalized last month; the assumption being that the majority of the bells would speed up fiber deployments. As this anonymous vendor (waiting on fiber deployment contracts) points out, each bell has their own opinions on the technology. "BellSouth's view is they want a competitor to Marconi in the fiber-to-the-curb business. And SBC is along for the ride. I don't think they're as vocal about all this as Verizon and BellSouth," he notes.

According to one Verizon executive, the company will be investing some $500 million this year on DSL upgrades, but has their eye squarely fixed on the fiber prize. According to Verizon Network Services President Paul Lacouture, he doesn't believe the company has "to do that much with DSL in terms of availability. We've already hit 80% of the homes," and some of that $500 million will be used to help make fiber to the premises a reality.

Last spring's announcement by BellSouth, SBC, and Verizon that they'd decided to standardize their fiber deployment procedures, had many in the industry suddenly optimistic. The whole thing had a very immediate air about it, with both SBC and Verizon noting they'd begin construction of such networks beginning in 2004 (of course the telcos were waiting for the FCC ruling, so that immediacy could have been more show than serious intention).

Many analysts have been critical, suggesting it will take 10-30 years to see some of these networks become widespread. Other analysts aren't so sure, and think cable competition will apply pressure to the telcos to seriously speed up their adventures in fiber.

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