SBC: Fiber to Reach 18M Homes

by Colin C. Haley

A telecom exec said a dual approach to its fiber deployment keeps its IPTV rollout on schedule.

BOSTON -- SBC is taking a pragmatic approach to fiber deployments ahead of its IPTV rollout, an SBC executive said at Yankee Group's IPTV Decision Summit here today.

Jeff Weber, vice president of the San Antonio telecom's Project Lightspeed fiber program, said it's inaccurate to say SBC is using fiber-to-the-node architecture exclusively over fiber-to-the-home .

"If a trench is open we're putting fiber in it, but we're not going to dig up that trench just for the fun of it," Weber said in his keynote address. "We're using both FTTH and FTTN."

Generally, rollouts break down this way: new housing developments get FTTH; existing neighborhoods get FTTN; and sections of the network that need to be rehabbed are taken on a case-by-case basis.

By bringing fiber closer to users and implementing last-mile and new video compression services, FTTN provides plenty of speed and bandwidth for IPTV, Weber said, adding that, whatever the method, SBC is on track to deploy fiber and IPTV to 18 million households over the next three years.

IPTV is a crucial piece of the regional telecom multi-billion-dollar plan to use fiber-optic cable to deliver a "triple-play" bundle of television, phone and high-speed Internet services to consumers.

The IPTV service will include customizable channel lineups, video-on-demand, digital video recording, interactive program guides, event notifications and content protection features.

To do so, it's been signing up hardware and software vendors with experience in the field.

"It's not lost on us that we can't do this alone," Weber said, reciting a list of partners, including Alcatel (network equipment), Amdocs (billing services), Microsoft (IPTV software) and Scientific Atlanta (set-top boxes).

Industry-watchers say that integration of this hardware and software is another important factor in helping IPTV catch on with consumers. Microsoft has been refuting some press reports that there have been some interoperability problems with its platform.

Another crucial piece is content and feature plans, which are starting to take shape.

"We feel much more comfortable about content," Weber said. "When we started, [content] was the biggest worry on my list. We have trial agreements in place and we are exactly where we ought to be in terms of nailing down contracts."

Verizon , which is in the midst of its own fiber and video initiative, recently announced a programming deal with Turner Broadcasting System for its planned video service.

Finally, SBC and other telecoms are watching the regulatory climate. Their efforts to streamline the process for rolling out IPTV in Texas recently won a reprieve when the state's legislature was called back into session.

"Our belief is that we don't need a [video] franchise," Weber said, but added that it will continue pressing for regulatory reform at the state and federal levels. "We believe IPTV does not require it, but we do want clarity."

This article was originally published on Tuesday Jul 19th 2005