EC opens fiber funding debate

The European Commission (EC) is switching its fixed broadband focus from ensuring basic access for all to funding of fiber rollouts.

It claims good progress has already been made to ensuring basic broadband access for all citizens, a goal of the EC's Digital Agenda, and that the time has come to work out how to boost deployment of high speed networks instead. The Commission has opened a three-month consultation on proposals for public funding of fiber rollouts, and aims to adopt definitive guidelines in December.

"State aid control should support the Digital Agenda targets while maintaining incentives for commercial investments," says Joaquín Almunia vice president of competition policy at the Commission.

The proposals are more about clarifying existing broadband regulations, drafted in 2009, than radical change. They cover public backing of 100-Mbps networks, transparency in government-backed deployments, and generating investment in passive infrastructure.

Almunia alluded to the potential financial benefits of high-speed networks, explaining. "We need a dynamic framework for the application of EU state aid rules in this strategic sector that fosters investments." Such a strategy may include easing restrictions on rural investment, EC information states.

Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes issued a rallying call to member states over funding high speed networks in April, stating investment is essential to maintain growth in Europe's web economy, which she claims is growing faster than China's national economy. She predicted 5% of regional GDP will come from the digital economy within a few years

Alca-Lu wins €100m China FTTH deal

China Telecom is throwing its weight behind Alcatel-Lucent, as part of an effort to pass 100 million homes with fiber by 2015.

The operator has signed a €100 million deal with Alca-Lu covering fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network deployment in all 31 Chinese provinces, as it seeks to connect 30 million subscribers to high-speed broadband within the next three years. The deal builds on a similar agreement signed in July 2011, covering fiber rollout in rural areas.

Alca-Lu's local Shanghai Bell subsidiary will deploy the infrastructure firm's GPON and EPON-compliant fiber network kit for China Telecom.

Rajeev Singh-Molares, president of Alcatel-Lucent Asia-Pacific, says the deal highlights the firm's strength in FTTH and the "rapid expansion of broadband in China."

Verizon boosts top FiOS FTTH speed to 300 Mbps

In an attempt to stay ahead of both rising bandwidth demand from its customers as well as the DOCSIS 3.0-enabled offerings of its cable MSO competitors, Verizon (NYSE, NASDAQ: VZ) says that it will more than double the speeds of several of its FiOS Internet tiers and add two new tiers. One of these will support download speeds of 300 Mbps via Verizon's fiber to the home (FTTH) network.

Verizon’s current offerings include the following options (download/upload):

  • 150 Mbps/35 Mbps
  • 50 Mbps/20 Mbps
  • 35 Mbps/35 Mbps
  • 25 Mbps/25 Mbps
  • 15 Mbps/5 Mbps.

In June, the portfolio will expand to (download/upload):

  • 300 Mbps/65 Mbps
  • 150 Mbps/65 Mbps
  • 75 Mbps/35 Mbps
  • 50 Mbps/25 Mbps
  • 15 Mbps/5 Mbps

Verizon says it will wait to announce the price of each new offering until June as well. The new speeds will be offered in standalone and bundled packages.

"The ways we used the Internet and watched TV over the past 10 to 15 years have dramatically shifted," said Bob Mudge, president of Verizon's consumer and mass market business unit. "With the emergence of smartphones, smart TVs, Blu-ray players, tablets, and gaming consoles that also serve as over-the-top devices, consumers need more bandwidth to receive the highest-quality experience."

In a shot at the way cable MSOs provide bandwidth via hybrid fiber/coax networks and DOCSIS, Verizon said in a press release that its FTTH-enabled network "will provide customers with sustained speed and reliability of service, in contrast to intermittent speed boosts offered by cable-company competitors whose networks, unlike Verizon's, are not all-fiber optic."

"Our top FiOS speed will be twice as fast as anything America has ever seen," said Mike Ritter, chief marketing officer for Verizon's consumer and mass market business unit. "High-speed" Internet no longer is just for techies, as more than half of our residential consumers already use at least a 20-Mbps Internet connection. Streaming online video on an all-fiber-optic connection providing faster speeds is better and more reliable during peak Internet usage hours.

"As recently as 2005, video was less than 10 percent of Web traffic," Ritter added."By the end of this year, we expect it to be 50 percent, growing to 90 percent in just a few years."

Verizon says "the majority" of its customers – those connected via GPON rather than BPON — will have access to the two fastest-speed options of 150 and 300 Mbps. At least some customers with BPON connections who "qualify" for GPON connections can have their BPON ONUs replaced with GPON equivalents to receive the top-speed services.

The company says it currently passes more than 13.7 million customers in parts of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states plus parts of Florida, Texas, California, and the District of Columbia. That total eventually will reach 18 million Verizon asserts.