CenturyLink dips its feet into the 1 Gbps FTTP waters

Sean Buckley, FierceTelecomCenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), like its fellow RBOC AT&T (NYSE: T), has been conservative about transforming its last mile network that leverages a hybrid copper/fiber fiber to the node (FTTN) architecture, but its new pilot in Omaha shows that it wants to consider fiber to the premises (FTTP) as part of its broader last mile access toolkit.

In our latest On the Hot Seat interview, I talked to Matt Beal, CTO of CenturyLink about its 1 Gbps FTTP pilot and the various challenges it will face.

The telco's pilot comes on the heels of various announcements by Google Fiber (Nasdaq: GOOG) to bring its FTTP service to a number of new markets, including Provo, Utah, where CenturyLink operates as the incumbent telco.

But unlike Google, CenturyLink's trial requires the upgrade of an existing HFC-based network that was built by the telco's predecessor US West.

Converting a Brownfield network comes with a number of technology and customer challenges.

On the technology side, retrofitting existing infrastructure was already deployed within every eight homes in the entire footprint allowed us to make the capital case to put this forward as a pilot. For customers, the challenge will be twofold: coordinating time to replace existing network equipment in the home and convincing them that they can provide a better experience than local cable operator Cox Communications.

While it's hard to tell whether or not CenturyLink will upgrade more of its markets to FTTP, one thing is for clear it realizes that it needs to have a fiber-based weapon in hand to stay on a competitive footing with cable operators that are now attacking telcos with triple play bundles and data-only broadband packages.--Sean

Check out our new Hot Seat interview here