AT&T's wireless receiver lets U-verse subs watch video anywhere in house

AT&T (NYSE: T) is the first U.S. pay TV provider to offer subscribers set-tops that don't require technicians to drill holes in walls, deploying a wireless box from Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) that relies on WiFi.

The set-top vendor's ISB7005 wireless set-top receives programming delivered from its VEN401 Wireless Access Point. The Wireless Access Point can deliver programming to up to two wireless set-tops, which could allow a subscriber with U-verse installed in the family room to access subscription video programming in a bedroom or the kitchen without requiring a technician to install additional outlets.

The wireless set-tops could allow AT&T to reduce labor costs since it can reduce the amount of time technicians spend at each home that requests a U-verse install. The boxes are also another marketing tool AT&T could use to woo customers from rivals such as Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV).

After hitting U-verse subscribers who want the wireless box with a one-time fee of $49, AT&T is leasing the wireless set-tops to subscribers for $7 monthly, which is the same fee it charges for its standard IPTV set-tops.

AT&T is the first distributor to use the wireless set-tops for its IPTV service, but Cisco is pitching similar set-tops to other customers. "Cisco was selected as the sole provider of this technology for AT&T, however this is not an exclusive contract. Cisco will continue to pursue interests in our wireless TV solution from other wireline service providers in North America, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East and Asia," said Cisco public relations manager Sara Cicero.

Google mulls bringing community FTTH network idea to Europe

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) thinks it would like to replicate the community Fiber to the Home (FTTH) network idea it's implementing in Kansas City in a European country.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, David Drummond, Google's senior VP, said during a recent meeting of the French Industry Ministry that the Internet search giant is "looking very closely" at developing a fiber initiative Europe.

However, Drummond gave little details about where or when any project would take place.

News of Google's Continental ambitions comes at a time when the European Commission has launched a new plan to help finance new broadband networks built by both incumbent carriers and emerging competitive carriers like local electric utilities.

That's not to say that Europe isn't big on fiber-based broadband already.

Led by aggressive European countries such as Russia, a recent IDATE report revealed that FTTH networks pass about 33 million European homes, and the networks continued to grow at a rate of 21 percent throughout 2010. In addition to Russia, eight other countries, including Sweden, Italy, France, Lithuania, Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Turkey are making progress with their respective FTTH networks.

Similar to its efforts to launch FTTH networks in the U.S., any move that Google will make in Europe is all about getting the attention of existing service providers and regulators.

VTel provides 1 Gbps to the home service

Vermont Telephone Company (VTel) is breaking ground on its hybrid 4G LTE wireless and wireline Fiber to the Home (FTTH)-based plan to extend broadband services to its rural customers in Vermont.

Set to extend 1 Gbps speed services to over 15,000 customers throughout the southern Vermont service area by 2012, the new project is made possible through $129 million in broadband stimulus grants via the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).

To make 1 Gbps to the home service possible, the service provider is putting optical network terminals (ONT) at subscriber premises with point-to-point GigE technologies to serve as the connection point for its Wireless Open World (WOW) network.

When the project, which got underway in September, is completed in 2013, VTel said it “will extend 4G/LTE wireless broadband to every unserved Vermont community, and … extend its fiber to 200 community anchors in three states.”

Broadband access is only one part of the overall program. The service provider plans to deliver digital literacy training through a number of Rural Broadband Farm Forums, which were patterned on the Rural Radio Farm Forum used successfully in rural America in the 1940s to help create jobs and share community ideas.

Verizon's Q3 wireline story driven by consumer, business gains

Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) wireline segment may have faced a number of challenges as it wrapped up the third quarter, but that did not get in the way of the service provider reporting gains in its consumer and business segments.

Broadband services: Broadband service continues to be strong performer in Verizon's wireline portfolio. At the end of the quarter, the service provider had 8.6 million total broadband connections, a 2.8 percent increase. Similar to other recent quarters, new FiOS Fiber to the Premises (FTTP)-based connections offset declines in DSL broadband connections. In total, Verizon added 20,000 broadband connections during the quarter.

Video services: Consumers continue to tune into FiOS TV. During the quarter, Verizon added 138,000 new FiOS Internet connections and 131,000 net new FiOS TV connections. At the end of the quarter, Verizon had a total of 4.6 million FiOS Internet and 4 million FiOS TV connections. After it gets through the FiOS installation backlogs caused by the storms and strike, Verizon said it will add about 200,000 FiOS Internet and 200,000 FiOS TV customers in Q4 2011.

Business services: Buoyed by its growing suite of next-gen services, including its Terremark data center, cloud services and Ethernet, Verizon reported that global enterprise revenues rose 2.1 percent since Q3 2010 to $3.9 billion. Strategic service revenues were up 15.6 percent versus Q3 2010 and now represent about 50 percent of its global enterprise revenues. At the same time, Verizon's aggressive build out to service multinational corporations in international markets such as Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America also paid off as the international business sales were up 9.8 percent year over year.

European Commission reveals its broadband plan

The European Commission (EC) has laid out more elements of its €9.2 billion ($12.59 billion) plan to help finance the buildout of new broadband networks.

Through its Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) initiative, the EC has allocated €7 billion ($9.58 billion) in debt/equity financing and guarantees to build out broadband networks in underserved areas with the remaining amount coming in grants to build digital network infrastructure supporting a single market.

To fund the purchase of broadband network infrastructure, the CEF funding would complement private and/or public investments.

Similar to broadband projects paid for by broadband stimulus funding in the U.S. market, the EC expects to see project proposals from not only traditional incumbent service providers, but also emerging providers including utilities, cooperative organizations and local government organizations.

Ultimately, the EC hopes that the CEF could drive €50-100 billion ($68.4 – USD136.9 billion) in new broadband investment. This money would then be applied to the €270 billion ($369.7 billion) cost to meet the EU's broadband goals outlined in its Digital Agenda.

Click for more information on the Connecting Europe Facility initiative.

Telebras to roll out backbone network in three cities by year-end

Brazilian state-owned telecoms company Telecomunicacoes Brasileiras (Telebras) has revealed it plans to complete the deployment of a backbone network in the cities of Fortaleza, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro by the end of the year. The telco said it recently finished the rollout of a fibre-optic backbone network in the capital Brasilia, and work is expected to be completed in Porto Alegre in early 2012.

Seperately, Telebras has been tasked by the Brazilian government to establish a countrywide broadband plan and build out a 23,000 km open access fiber backbone network.

Telekom Austria details high-speed broadband plans

Two thirds of Austrian homes will be covered by fiber broadband networks by 2015, new plans from incumbent Telekom Austria reveal.

The operator plans to connect 2.75 million homes in urban and rural areas to its fiber-optic GigaNet network in the next five years and will begin deploying LTE early 2012 with the aim of offering 4G coverage in all main towns in the same timeframe.

Fiber coverage is due to penetrate 50% of homes by end-2011, as the group seeks to meet growing demand for data services, and to cash in on the digital economy. “Broadband rollout is not a luxury, but an essential infrastructure requirement for any country,” chief Hannes Ametsreiter says.

With that in mind, the group also plans to deploy high-speed fixed and mobile networks in areas where it isn’t economically viable, to avoid creating a digital divide. Doris Bures, federal minister for technology explains the goal is to “catapult Austria to the top of the ICT nations,” by ensuring equal access to broadband for all citizens.

East Asia takes broadband planning lead

Singapore, Japan, and South Korea remain the most ambitious in the world when it comes to broadband services, according to a new study from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Now in its third edition, the government broadband report shows that East Asian governments are targeting faster services and greater coverage than other countries. Already considered some of the most advanced broadband economies in the world, all three will significantly extend their lead if they meet targets.

Each has an official plan to provide 1Gbps services within the next two to five years, and both Singapore and Japan aim to cover more than 90% of households with these services over that time frame.

“In Europe, governments have been focused on addressing regional and rural areas the private sector would struggle to serve profitably,” says Iain Morris, editor of the report. “As a result, target speeds tend to range from 20Mbps to 50Mbps for between 75% and 90% of households.”

Northern countries, including Estonia, Finland and Sweden, are typically more aggressive, targeting speeds of 100Mbps for between 90% and 100% of households within the next five to 10 years.

Approaches vary in other parts of the world, although higher levels of public-sector funding per household covered generally correspond to more government intervention.

Australia is spending the most in public-sector funds per household covered of any country in the world, with a government plan to create, own and operate an ultra-fast network in almost all parts of the country.

In the US and Canada, governments are mainly focused on reducing the so-called “digital divide” by funding network rollout in rural areas.

BT launches FTTP service, promises 300 Mbps next year

UK-based BT Group PLC (LSE: BT.A) has announced the commercial launch of broadband services over its fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network. Initial speeds will be up to 110 Mbps downstream and 30 Mbps upstream, but speeds will be increased to 300 Mbps in 2012, the company promised.

The operator's Openreach access network division, which provides wholesale services to retail ISPs (including sister division BT Retail), said that the first six exchange locations to be enabled by the end of October would be Ashford in Middlesex, Bradwell Abbey in Milton Keynes, Highams Park in North London, Chester South, St Austell, and York.

BT is spending £2.5 billion (US$3.9 billion) on what it calls "superfast" broadband, although the majority (roughly three-quarters) of its rollout is fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), which still relies on copper for the final few hundred meters from street cabinets to homes. So far, the operator has passed more than 5 million premises with FTTC, and is making the service available at a rate of tens of thousands of new homes every week.

BT has some good news for its FTTC customers too: It now has approval from the relevant authorities to use new frequencies for VDSL that will enable it to roughly double the speeds delivered. As a result, FTTC downstream speeds will increase from up to 40 Mbps to up to 80 Mbps.

Openreach chief executive Liv Garfield said, "All our fiber products are fit for the future and these developments show that to be the case. As always, we want to go further and faster and so our journey doesn’t end here. We can turn up the dial should there be demand and so we can look to the future with confidence."

The firm is already testing 1-Gbps speeds on its FTTP test bed at Kesgrave in Suffolk, near its R&D center in Martlesham Heath (see "BT to trial gigabit FTTP broadband").

MGTS set up the optics

Moscow City Telephone Network (MGTS, a part of MTS) will transfer 42,000 owners of shared telephone lines to individual communication lines based on GPON technology by the end of 2011 at no charge, that will make digital communication services available to these subscribers. The Company also holds a tender for subscriber equipment suppliers.

400,000 subscribers will be transferred to GPON (Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks) technology – this is the number of households to be covered by the projected digital network according to the network capacity plan and introduction to the commercial market by 2012.

All transferred subscribers will receive an individual digital telephone line, access to IPTV and high-speed Internet. In the future the optical communication channels will provide access to new MGTS services such as high definition television (HDTV), video monitoring, fire protection, video calls and other interactive services. GPON model involves installation of the port to provide the above listed in the subscriber’s apartment. MGTS has not chosen the equipment supplier yet, the tender is open.