Gordon And Mike's ICT Podcast
Perspectives on Technology and Education from Gordon F. Snyder, Jr. & Mike Qaissaunee

Mike Intro: December 19. 2007: Broadband the AT&T and Qwest Way
In this podcast we discuss AT&T and Qwests Fiber to the Node projects.

Mike: Gordon, can you give us a little background on what AT&T is doing?

Project Lightspeed was announced as a 6 billion dollar project by AT&T in June 2004 and involves running optical fiber out to a remote terminal, or node and providing the last portion of the connection over copper wire. The project was ambitious from the start with initial plans to reach close to 19 million homes by the end of 2008. AT&T has given the product the name U-verse and at the TelcoTV conference last October, VP of converged services at AT&T Labs Research Peter Hill gave the keynote address featuring the product. Here's a few quotes from an October 26 CED Magazine post:

AT&T’s roll out of its IPTV video services has been slower than it originally anticipated, but with more than 126,000 current subscribers, the company feels as though it’s on the right track. AT&T started the year with 3,000 video subscribers, then grew that base to 16,000 and 60,000, respectively, in the first and second quarters.

“We’re past the point of last year where the question was, ‘Will IPTV scale?’,? said Peter Hill, VP of converged services at AT&T Labs Research, during the first keynote address Wednesday morning at TelcoTV. “You can’t get to that number (126,000 subscribers) without significant flow through and automation. We do have a competitive service and we can do it to scale.?

Mike: There's always been concerns about bandwidth, especially when compated to products like the Verizon Fiber to the Home, or FiOS project. How is AT&T doing with U-verse?

Bandwidth has been a major concern, with Hill commenting on the H.264 compression standard:

“The encoding rates for H.264 have come down faster than we projected,? Hill said. “We’ll be able to do more channels in the same amount of bandwidth.?

Mike: What other services will be available?

Hill says the company will be adding home DVRs that allow satellite set-top boxes to show video downloaded to the DVR box. Hill also said the company will be adding to the current 30 high-definition channels next year along with photo-sharing and a Voice over IP (VoIP) service. Here's more interesting quotes from the CED Magazine piece:

While cable executives have said there is no compelling reason to move to an IP infrastructure to deliver video services, Hill contends that IPTV is “very different from cable and satellite? because the nature of IP allows for easier integration among services while also allowing it to take advantage of Internet partners such as Amazon.......

One of those features is “Cinema Center? that allows movies to be purchased from Amazon with one click. The movie portal content would be dynamic and would allow subscribers to view trailers prior to making their purchases.

“We don’t have to create this stuff in IP because it reaches out to Web devices and incorporates them into IPTV,? Hill said.

Hill demonstrated how an iPhone could be used to remotely program a home TV and how multiple cameras at live events could be selected by the viewer. He also demonstrated a feature that used an i-Phone to remotely configure channel favorites on a home TV. The application would give four different i-Phone users the ability to program their favorite shows on their household TVs. Also discussed was a Web cam feature that would let viewers in different locations view a live performance of a sporting event or dance concert based on IP technology that uses switched digital video.

Mike: I know they had problems with the original set top box - any updates?

Also, according to CED Magazine:

During the question-and-answer segment, Hill said AT&T would continue to rely on the Motorola set-top box with the Sigma Designs processor as its main workhorse, although it’s also working with Scientific Atlanta on a box with the same signature.

Hill expected new set-top boxes with second-generation chipsets from Sigma and Broadcom to be available in 2009.

Mike: How is it selling?

The U-verse product website lists:

Subscribers: 126,000 U-verse TV and Internet subscribers in service (as of end of 3Q07)

Homes Passed: Approximately 5.5 million living units (as of end of 3Q07)

Deployment: Plans to pass approximately 8 million living units by the end of 2007Another interesting roll out to watch in 2008.
Schedule: AT&T expects to reach nearly 18 million households as part of its initial deployment by the end of 2008.

Mike: Speaking about FTTN - I know you recently blogged on Qwest and FTTN effort. Can you give us an update?

Qwest is based in Denver and provides services to 14 states in the western part of the U.S.

Earlier this week, Broadband Reports posted an interesting summary of a conference call with new (he started in August) Qwest CEO Ed Mueller. Here's a summary from the Broadband Reports post:
Qwest will spend $300 million over the next two years to bring 20Mbps VDSL to around 1.5 million customers.
- $70-100 million will be spent on FTTN this year and another $200 million next year.

Qwest hopes to see a FTTN/VDSL penetration rate of 40% by 2010.
Upgrades are going to cost the company around $175 per home. Qwest will focus on portions of around twenty un-mentioned markets.

The Denver Post also published an article yesterday outlining the call and indicated the company will not focus on IP video delivery, stating "the $300 million fiber-to-the-node project is not intended as a deployment of IPTV." Qwest currently has a video agreement with DirectTV and it looks like that agreement will stay in place.

The Post article gave a little more detail on deployment, stating the rollout "will focus on 20 markets with the project, 10 of its largest and 10 others." Also according to the article, Qwest has started to upgrade their network in Denver and Colorado Springs.

Second generation VDSL (Very High Speed Digital Subscriber Line), referred to as VDSL2, provides up to 100Mbps over standard copper telephone wires.

These will be  exciting products to watch in 2008.
Direct download: FTTN_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:22am EST

Mike Intro: Earlier this fall we discussed DOCSIS 3.0 and how the cable companies will use this technology to deliver high bandwidth services to consumers. In this podcast we discuss the implementation and technologies the traditional telephone companies are using to deliver-high bandwidth voice, video and data services.

Mike: Gordon, I know you are very familiar with Verizon and the companies FiOS fiber to the home ((FTTH) product. How is the project coming along?

FiOS is Verizon's Fiber to the Home (FTTH), also know as Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) product offering. The service provides high-bandwidth data, voice and video services. The company has posted some interesting data on their policy blog for the third quarter of 2007. Here's a summary:

Fiber Implementation: Source: http://www.verizon.com/fiberoptics

FiOS is currently available in parts of 16 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

At the end of September 2007, Verizon had passed about 8.5 million homes and businesses – installing more than 457 million feet of fiber in parts of 16 states.

Verizon expects to continue passing some 3 million premises annually through 2010,

when the company expects to have passed about 18 million homes, or over half the homes

it serves.

Verizon will begin boosting speeds and capabilities on its all-fiber network when it begins

deploying advanced G-PON electronics in 2007. This technology can increase

downstream broadband speeds by up to four times, and upstream speeds by eight times.

Verizon is investing nearly $23 billion in the FiOS project, between 2004 and 2010.

Mike: How about broadband products?

Broadband Products: Source: http://www22.verizon.com/Content/ConsumerFiOS/

Mike: What about video?

Video: Source: http://www.verizonfios.com/tv

Mike: What's happening with bandwidth over fiber?

On November 19, Verizon announced they have completed a 100 Gbps optical communications test between Tampa and Miami, FL. The two cities are 312 miles apart. Here's a couple of quotes from the press release:

Verizon has successfully concluded the industry's first field test of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) optical transmission, on a live, in-service 312-mile (504 kilometer) network route between Tampa, Fla., and Miami.

The test, which utilized a live video feed from Verizon's national FiOS TV network as the "payload," was successfully completed Friday (Nov. 16). The 100 Gbps transmission was conducted on a Verizon Business ultra long-haul optical system carrying other live traffic at 10 Gbps. The test demonstrated that by deploying advanced electronics, an existing network system can easily and quickly be upgraded to 100Gbps.

The test was done using existing fiber that had been installed for 10 Gbps service. Here's a couple more quotes from the press release:

Unlike other trials that used 10 separate 10 Gbps wavelengths to carry 100 Gbps, the Verizon test utilized a 100 Gbps signal on a single wavelength, demonstrating Verizon's drive to promote "true" 100 Gbps in a serial fashion on just one transmission wavelength.

Like the equipment in the company's 40 Gbps trial in June 2004, the 100 Gbps equipment used in the field trial was implemented with a "plug and play" approach. This is a key objective for future commercial implementation, and means the technology was used without any changes to the fiber, amplifiers and other embedded equipment.

Amazing bandwidth obtained using existing fiber - the trial only swapped electronics using, according to the press release, Alcatel-Lucent's 1625 LambdaXtreme Transport system.

Mike: Will companies continue to deliver assymetrical services?

On October 22, Verizon announced 20 Mbps symmetrical FIOs service in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for as low as $64.99 a month. There are two things that I find exciting about this offering. First - it's great to see the bandwidths continue to go up. I feel this is just the start and we'll see bandwidths of over 100 Mbps within the next two years in selected areas as the telcos, like Verizon, go head-to-head with the cable companies like Comcast. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where FIOS is available you re in for a real treat regarding bandwidth.

The second exciting thing I see here is a shift to symmetrical services.

Mike: Could you explain what a symmetrical service is and how it differ from what we're used to?

Broadband products to date, including FIOS, ADSL and cable modem, have always been asymmetrical - the "A" in ADSL is even short for asymmetrical! Asymmetrical services provide more downstream bandwidth than upstream bandwidth. It's been a way for the providers to "cheat" a bit based on traditional Internet usage. Consider the way you traditionally surf the web - you enter a small amount of information in the address bar and hit enter. The address you type ends up going to a DNS (Domain Name Service) server and is looked up. The DNS server sends back the IP address of the site you want and your browser is directed to that site location. The site server then sends your browser the site contents you want to see.

Think about it - in the traditional model - a little information gets sent upstream and lots of information comes back downstream. Recognizing these patterns the providers have designed their networks to provide a little upstream bandwidth and lots of downstream bandwidth. Well...... all this has changed with this new FIOS offering from Verizon. Here's a quote from a Verizon press release:

"Verizon's new symmetric service is a smart response to the changing usage patterns of high-speed Internet subscribers," said Vince Vittore, senior analyst with Yankee Group. "We believe that as user-generated content continues to expand and telecommuting increases in popularity, upstream speed will become just as important as downstream for all users."

Mike: Thanks Gordon. We'll take a look at Fiber To The Node (FTTN) technologies next week.

Direct download: FTTH_Final.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:57pm EST