AT&T says cable's EoHFC is a real competitive threat in special access game

AT&T (NYSE: T) has joined the chorus of traditional ILECs that say cable operators' Ethernet over HFC service is a viable competitive alternative threat in the wholesale special access market.

While cable has long offered small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) its DOCSIS-based best effort broadband services, business customers that have facilities served via these facilities are finding that price and speed of these services are becoming more satisfactory.

"As the economic testimony makes clear, service level guarantees and multi-site capabilities are just two factors that special access customers consider. Customers also consider, for example, price and speed," AT&T said in a FCC filing. "That is why AT&T offers a range of special access services with different combinations of price, speed, service levels, and other features. The cable company best efforts offerings are clearly viewed by many customers as having a combination of price, quality, speed, and other factors that make them a better fit than other services currently offered by ILECs or CLECs."

A growing number of cable MSOs such as Cox, Comcast and even regional providers like WOW! Business are offering business grade Ethernet over HFC services with related QoS and CoS promises that are important for large businesses.

Take Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) [email protected] service.

Leveraging its HFC network, Comcast said the service is focused on helping business customers in the financial and health care sectors extend private links to their corporate networks for their staff of doctors, professors and analysts who work out of their homes on a regular basis.

Backed by SLAs, Comcast's [email protected] can offer various Ethernet services at symmetric services of up to 10 Mbps. Likewise, Cox said that its EoHFC service enables customers to "extend the reach of [their] LAN to multiple locations.,"32 and that its business services are backed by "industry-leading SLAs," which demonstrate its "commitment to providing . . . the highest level of service and support."  Cox also offers "Coax Ethernet" that supports multipoint-to-multipoint" services.

AT&T said that the FCC "should place greater weight on the existence of these offerings, because the Commission's regulation should be forward-looking and should allow for trends like Ethernet over HFC that clearly are taking hold and are already making an impact."

For its part, AT&T said it is responding to competition from cable HFC-based services by developing a series of next-generation Ethernet products and services that will replace legacy TDM-based DSn services.

AT&T isn't the only telco who is seeing competition from EoHFC.

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) said in a separate FCC filing that it is actually using cable providers' Ethernet over HFC facilities itself to fulfill large customer needs as it expands its service footprint outside of its traditional wireline territory.

AT&T and CenturyLink's arguments emerge as the FCC nears the end of its investigation into the competitive state of the special access market that's traditionally been controlled by ILECs.

For more:
- see the FCC filing (PDF)

Related articles:
CenturyLink says cable's hybrid facilities meet its Ethernet customers' needs, negating special access changes
Level 3 says special access customers should have more choice in commitment
AT&T wants to see competitors' fiber maps as part of special access investigation

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