Rogers Starts to Get It On With GPON

Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), Canada's largest cable operator, confirmed that it is using fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) to power a new broadband service tier that provides upload and download speeds of up to 250Mbit/s.

The tier, called Rogers Ultimate Fibre Internet, is currently available only in parts of Toronto and the MSO's Atlantic region, which includes Moncton and Halifax. The service comes with a monthly 500-gigabyte usage limit. Rogers has yet to provide pricing options for the new 250-Meg tier.

The new service outpaces Rogers's current top-end Docsis 3.0-based service, which, following a recent set of upgrades, maxes out at 150Mbit/s down and 10Mbit/s upstream and runs $122.99 per month (depending on how it's packaged). Customers of the 150-Meg tier are subject to a charge of $0.50 per gigabyte (up to a maximum of $100) if they exceed the tier's monthly 250GB data threshold.

Outgunning Bell Canada

The new Rogers offering also outruns BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), which, depending on the region, sells a symmetrical 175Mbit/s service (with a monthly 500GB cap) for $202.95 per month when bundled with other services.

Word of the Rogers fiber-fed tier began to spread on blogs such as Broadband Reports in mid-November. Rogers denied any characterizations that the 250-Meg service is a trial or test.

"[T]his is not a beta. … Rogers is implementing a first market rollout of fibre to the home in select regions in Toronto and the Atlantic," a Rogers spokeswoman said via email.

She noted that the current, limited deployment is based on GPON and got underway in early November. Rogers isn't saying when or where it will expand the reach of the Ultimate Fibre Internet tier.

Rogers marks the latest major North American cable operator to use FTTH surgically for high-end speed tiers. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), for example, is using its Metro Ethernet platform for a new residential service that offers 305Mbit/s down by 65Mbit/s upstream. That Extreme 305 service, launched in the fall, is currently offered in several major markets in the Northeastern U.S., including Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. (See Comcast Gives FTTH a Shot .)

The latest generation of Docsis 3.0 chipsets can support downstream bursts of 1Gbit/s. Comcast, however, intends to use MetroE in the near term for Extreme 305 as it gauges consumer demand for the new tier, which is uncapped and runs $300 per month. (See Intel's New Docsis 3.0 Chip Guns for 1-Gig .)

European broadband at a crossroads – Kroes

EU's Digital Agenda commissioner admits business case for rural network investment still shaky.

The European Union's digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes took to the stage on the opening day of this year's Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam to call on policy makers to spur network investment as a matter of urgency.

"We are at a crossroads," she said. "Take the right turn, and we will see the benefit for years to come. Take the wrong turn, and future generations will curse our missed opportunity."

Kroes warned that Europe is slipping behind other regions in terms of broadband availability, which if left unchecked will have dire economic consequences as more and more business is conducted online.

"In 2020, when an international business looks at where to put itself, it is going to look at digital societies with high-speed broadband," she said, the implication being that Europe may find itself without the infrastructure needed to attract high-flying multinationals.

"Be aware that your competitive position is not forever carved in stone," Kroes continued. "We have the talent, and we have the research capability, but we still need to fill in the gaps to make a digital single market."

Kroes earlier in October called on telcos to help lobby for the release of €9.2 billion from the EU's Connecting Europe Facility, which could go towards broadband infrastructure deployment in underserved areas.

However, even with public funding, rollout targets at both national and EU-level, and demand for broadband from end users, Kroes admitted that building a business case for investing in rural networks , particularly fibre, "is still shaky".

"Where you can't expect to put fibre, other technologies should be used," she said.

However, when questioned about whether speed or availability should be the priority for broadband strategists, her message was clear: just any Internet connection will not suffice; it has to be broadband.

"It's essential to our future….we are far from hitting the Internet's innovation potential," Kroes said. Realising that potential requires a broadband connection

BT to accelerate fibre rollout

BT is accelerating rollout of its fibre broadband network and expects it to pass two thirds of UK premises by spring 2014, more than 18 months ahead of schedule.

The announcement came during the telco’s second quarter results that showed it had over 950,000 fibre subscribers, of which 875,000 were retail customers. BT said it added 160,000 retail fibre customers during the quarter which meant 14% of its retail broadband base took the high speed service.

Ian Livingston, BT chief executive, said, “Fibre is at the heart of our broadband plans for both town and country. We plan to step up our efforts yet again to complete our commercial fibre rollout early as this will allow us to focus even further on the next exciting stage of our fibre broadband strategy. This will see BT working hand in hand with the public sector to extend fibre broadband to UK homes and businesses in the “final third” of the country that are harder to reach.”

BT’s hybrid TV service BT Vision added 21,000 customers during the quarter, taking its total base to over 750,000.