EPB shakes up FTTH market with 10G residential service

EPB has introduced a 10G FTTH service for residential customers in Chattanooga, Tenn., upping the competitive ante in the FTTH gigabit services trend.

Similar to its flagship 1 Gbps service, the new 10G service is competitively priced at $299. For those customers willing to pay for the service, EPB is offering free installation, no contracts and no cancellation fees.

"We have found...that when we did a Gig, we heard from everybody nobody needs a Gig, but it turns out quite a few people want a Gig. And once they have it, people are smart enough to find rather incredible ways of using it," said Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "We think the 10 Gig will be the same way: It will start out slow and price will be part of the reason for the slowness because $300 is still cheap for 10 Gbps, but expensive for the average person trying to make ends meet."

DePriest added that the pricing of the 10G service is "driven by the equipment needed to make it work and at some point in time the take rate will be high enough that the costs of the equipment at a per unit basis go down and we'll probably drop our pricing."

Leveraging Alcatel-Lucent's (NYSE: ALU) TWDM-PON technology, EPB's 10G service is available to every home and business in a 600 square mile area.

It will be able to deliver the service to all 170,000 households and businesses in its service area.

Having already built out its FTTH network throughout the city, including Alcatel-Lucent's new platform, installation of the 10G service will be relatively easy for customers that request it. This is because the PON technology allows EPB to replicate the installation throughout its service territory.

"The only piece of equipment that we have to keep in supply and build that supply up will be the ONTs that go on the side of the home or business," DePriest said. "If somebody calls in and wants to order 10G on our system, we'll go out to the OLT, put a new high capacity card in and run the fiber to it and put in the new ONT and hook them up."

Initially, EPB expects the initial uptake of the 10G service will come from small businesses and residential customers that can afford a $300 a month service.

"I think it will come from individuals who like the idea of having the fastest Internet in the world, and I know several people who will do that," DePriest said. "For small businesses it will be more practical in the short run and they will be looking at ways of testing as Chattanooga becomes an entrepreneurial hub with young folks who are trying out various types of applications and business plans where high bandwidth is part of their thinking."

Although the 10G service is going to drive excitement in Chattanooga, the 1 Gbps service subscriber base is still growing. As of the end of this week, EPB said it has 6,399 customers, nearing its 6,400 goal.

"When we started out to be honest, we told people we don't know how to price a Gig because no one has priced one for residential customers," DePriest said. "We put a price on it like we did on 10G and knew would work if we have a small number of takers, but that number has continued to grow."

But 10G is only part of its Gigabit service expansion plans. EPB is also launching 5 Gbps and 10 Gbps Internet products for small businesses as well as a 3 Gbps, 5 Gbps and 10 Gbps "Professional" products for larger enterprises. All of these Internet services are available at varying price points.

Its existing 1 Gbps service may only be 5 years old, but the service provider continues to drive benefits in Chattanooga, particularly in the area of job growth.

According to a new study conducted by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Finance, "the Gig Network" helped the Chattanooga area generate at least 2,800 new jobs and at least $865.3 million in economic and social benefits. In addition, EPB's smart grid has allowed customers to avoid an estimated 124.7 million minutes of electric service interruptions by automatically re-routing power to prevent an outage or dramatically reduce outage durations. 

Since it launched its Gigabit service in September 2010, a growing crop of new startup businesses are locating their facilities in Chattanooga. The city recently became the first mid-sized city with an established innovation district and is home to America's third largest business accelerator, the INCubator.

 For more:
- see the release

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