Fiber rich diet - Beyond the voice call

Whether they are opting for a FTTH or FTTN deployment, fiber is increasingly becoming a core piece of many independent telcos' last mile delivery architecture. Interestingly, these smaller scale telcos are providing services in areas that the large incumbents can't and will likely never reach. In fact, it could be argued that many independents have been quietly leading the charge for Fiber to the X, albeit on a smaller scale. One such provider is Canby Telcom. At the end of 2009, Canby had brought Fiber to the Home-based services to about 1,000 homes-a major milestone given the fact that the ILEC has only 11, 000 access lines and 9,000 customers.

Since it pulled out its higher speed fiber products out of National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA) it has been able to offer a number of speed tiers under its Fiber Optic Zone (FOZ) brand, including on the high end a 60/30 Mbps service in addition to a 40/20 Mbps and 20/10 Mbps service tier. Alternatively, other telephone cooperatives are restricted to offering 3-5 Mbps broadband services.  Keith Galitz, Canby Telcom's President, said that as it rolls out its GPON-based fiber network, its biggest challenge is keeping apace of bandwidth demand. "It was only a year and a half ago that we introduced 10 Mbps on our fiber network," Galitz explained. "That's how fast this thing is moving where the demand is there." 

But rolling out Fiber to the X is not just about speed alone. Upgrading a network to fiber has other operational benefits. Currently in a 5-7 year plan to overbuild its entire network with FTTH, Middleburgh, NY-based independent telco Middleburgh Telephone Company recognizes that FTTH is a long-term vision for the company. After proving that economics of putting in FTTH services to homes proved itself out with the ability to enable it to continue delivering digital RF-based video, Middleburgh Telephone has been proceeding with its own network upgrade using Motorola GPON gear.  

"From a core standpoint of just Fiber to the Home, we know that that's the future," said Jason Becker, General Manager, Middleburgh Telephone Company, a fourth-generation family employee. "From my grandmother, who is 86 years old and the president of the company, down through everyone through our entire company we believe in Fiber to the home. Our stance right now is that in the next 5-7 years we're going to overbuild our entire network with Fiber to the Home."
Getting fiber out to more users also has a more practical use of cutting down on maintenance costs. Becker says that while it's going to target its downtown and suburban areas, deploying FTTH means potentially less truck rolls to fix issues on the aging copper connections. 

"I know a lot of other company's strategy is to overbuild their most congested areas and not doing anything with our remote areas, but we want to over build the whole thing with fiber to the home because if you left just the copper customers out at the edge you're going to be truck rolling to the farthest reaches more often," Becker said. "It also opens up cable TV services to customers we can't reach now through a telco-provided network."  

Other telcos, however, aren't ready to take fiber into homes just yet. Similar to Middleburgh, Elijay Telephone Company (ETC) also operates as a cable operator, sees FTTH as more of a Greenfield opportunity initially. While Stacy Pettit, network operations manager at ETC, is encouraged by what evaluating various Fiber to the X solutions from unnamed vendors, he says the company is not ready yet.

At this point, ETC is currently to installing coax, not copper, in any Greenfield, but the next step will be to migrate to FTTH. "We're exploring opportunities, but one reason we're not already there is we are a cable company and we're not having to do IP video over copper and dealing with those headaches," Petit said. "I do think we're very close to doing FTTH as a Greenfield application; I think that's right around the corner."

Fiber rich diet - Beyond the voice call