Qwest enhances the broadband user experience

Fierce Telecom recently caught up with Travis Leo, director of product management for high speed Internet services at Qwest, to talk about the growth of their FTTN network and how its enhanced download and upload capabilities will fulfill the customer's desire for higher upload speeds to consume more video and gaming applications.

Fierce Telecom: Travis, you have just released an enhanced version of your FTTN service that offers 40 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speeds. What drove Qwest to offer these new capabilities?

Leo:  I would say there were really two main drivers behind it. One was that the technology is improving rapidly enough and we had the capabilities to do it. Once VDSL2 became available, we said we should do it from a technology standpoint, but that was secondary to what customers said. Customers told us, ‘yeah we want faster download speeds and we want to consume more media from the Internet, but we also got a lot of chirping on upload speeds.' Customers were also saying that ‘it's great that you can deliver all this download speed, and I love it, but I need to do more and share more with high definition video and gaming.'

FierceTelecom: Qwest's FTTN network is now available to 2 million premises. What lessons did Qwest learn during the first year of rolling out the network and services?

Leo: I would say first and foremost, we learned that as a company that we can do it. We demonstrated that we set out to achieve a plan and pass a certain number of homes for a certain cost. Secondly, we learned that customers want this service, they want the faster upload speeds, they want the faster download, they want to bundle their services, and they are tired of the cable industry's constant rate increases.

The biggest lesson we learned was that you can have all the speed in the world and all the latest and greatest bundling, but customers want that little extra. They not only want to know they are getting a good deal, but that they're also getting other services such as access to AT&T's WiFi network or 2 Gig online backup.

FierceTelecom: The new service leverages VDSL2. Talk about the transition to VDSL2 and will it be backward compatible with the ADSL2+ technology used in the initial FTTN network?

Leo: The easiest way to think about it is as Qwest builds new areas or as we augment existing areas for capacity, we'll deploy VDSL2 technology. If there's an enough demand in an area to go back and augment for the faster speeds, we can certainly do that without a huge amount of capital expense. However, if our 20 Mbps service is enough for most customers and they are happy with that, we'll continue to coexist with ADSL2+. It's really a gradual evolution as opposed to a flash cut.

FierceTelecom: Okay, so what's up next in Qwest's FTTN adventure?

Leo: I think the biggest thing is continuing to make the service available to more and more customers, continuing to invest in driving fiber deeper into the network and continuing to come up with valuable applications that exist on top of the service. I mentioned the Digital Vault. That's a service that someone might say ‘okay they can give us 2 Gigs of online backup.' When you think about the amount of digital media that people are consuming these days and that people used to say when a house went on fire the first thing they would grab would be the family photo album. Now, you can take all that digital family photo albums and back them up in the cloud.

FierceTelecom: Aside from you DirecTV partnership, Qwest is not building a video network, but your CEO Ed Mueller has touted the FTTN's network ability to enhance the online video viewing experience. What's your take on online video and how do the new capabilities play into it?

Leo: People are consuming media in all sorts of ways that weren't possible two years ago and weren't even thought of six months ago. Qwest's strategy is let's put the bandwidth out there, give customers the choice they want to use that bandwidth for. If they want to consume video over the top whether that is from Hulu, Netflix or Apple that video will be better experienced on Qwest.