While much of AT&T's (NYSE: T) broadband attention these days is centered around its HSPA+ and future LTE wireless plans, it's easy to forget that the telco is keen on expanding the boundaries of its existing wireline copper plant to deliver broadband services.
According to reports in Broadband DSL Reports and Reuters, AT&T is going to trial an 80 Mbps DSL service next year. This proposed speed far surpasses its top 24 Mbps speed and Verizon's 50 Mbps FiOS offering. To get there, AT&T said it would use a combination of "pair bonding, vectoring, (and) spectrum management," which it says "can be done very inexpensively and on a per-user basis."
Of course, the rate and reach a service provider can deliver over existing copper facilities depends on how far away the end user is from either the CO or the remote terminal (RT) cabinet. Not only does AT&T have to contend with varying copper loop lengths, but that proposed 80 Mbps pipe also has to carry bandwidth hungry HDTV signals. John Stankey, President of AT&T's operations, believes that it can overcome copper's distance limitations by bringing fiber closer to the user in a Fiber to the Node (FTTN) fashion and then cut down the amount of homes served by the RT cabinet.
Unlike Verizon's ambitious FTTH plan--one that it has decided will now focus on existing markets--AT&T took the safer hybrid fiber/copper FTTN route. And with cable operators aggressively upgrading their existing HFC plant to deliver 50 and 100 Mbps via DOCSIS 3.0, the pressure will be on AT&T to prove that its safer bet will pay off.
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