Sprint ropes in Ethernet over Copper, Ethernet over DOCSIS into Ethernet strategy

Sprint (NYSE: S) is looking to bolster its Ethernet strategy by offering customers the option to access two new options -- Ethernet over Copper (EoC) and Ethernet over DOCSIS (EoDOCSIS) -- via its growing array of access network partners this summer.

While Sprint has a well-developed fiber-based Ethernet product with its ILEC and CLEC partners, the EoC and EoDOCSIS products will enable it to reach more customers.

Mike Fitz, VP and general manager of Sprint's Global Wireline Business Unit, told FierceTelecom that these products give it more complementary weapons to its fiber-based Ethernet platform to satisfy multi-site businesses that might not need a fiber connection or aren't near fiber.

"We're going to be launching this summer Ethernet over Copper and Ethernet over DOCSIS options as well," Fitz said. "It's the same Ethernet access, but just instead of using fiber we'll use existing copper in the ground or the cable plant that Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Cox, and others offer services on, which will further expand our options for Ethernet as well."

Fitz added that "we're confident that once we launch those alternatives we will have 95 percent of the country blanketed with Ethernet access."

At this point, Sprint is building the External Network to Network Interconnection (E-NNI) arrangements with the ILECs and cable operators to offer these services.

"We're building the NNIs to get the reach to all of those sites and we're building the billing and the inventory systems as we speak to be able to do that," Fitz said. "What's interesting is the technology works because we use it today for our own cell site backhaul so it's not a matter of us launching a new unproven technology."

The expanded Ethernet plans come on the heels of Sprint launching a separate wireline division dedicated to its business customer base.

This division includes a dedicated set of sales representatives and solutions engineers who sell, design, implement and support wireline solutions for business customers.

Under the Global Wireline Business Unit, Sprint will provide a host of wireline services including: global MPLS and dedicated internet access (DIA) in 155 countries, global SIP trunking, Unified Communications, managed network solutions, managed security, remote mobile access and Ethernet.

But what about building out its own fiber?

While Sprint already owns a lot of its own long-haul and some metro fiber to carry its wireless and wireline services, the service provider will only build out fiber to specific buildings when it can make a business case work. Today, Sprint fulfills the majority of its fiber-based Ethernet requests by purchasing Ethernet and fiber from other ILECs, CLEC and cable operators.

Specifically, the driver for Sprint to deploy fiber directly into a building is when a customer requests gigabit level speeds.

"We own obviously a lot of fiber for backhaul, and we have on occasion for big customer deals done fiber-to-the-premises ourselves so if the economics makes sense we do it," Fitz said. "There are plenty of customers that have GigE connections or 10 GigE and the economics are such that it makes sense to do it."

However, Fitz says it's hard to justify building out fiber for a lot of customer locations, particularly those that require lower speed connections.

"For the majority of connections, the economics aren't there," Fitz said. "If I have a circuit into a mall and AT&T and Verizon does and my customer wants 10 Mbps of service, it does not make sense to trench fiber in there five times for the five different carriers."

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