Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fear the Fios

Verizon: Scaring the crap out of cable execs since 2004

It's like geek Christmas, but the techie users aren't waiting for Santa. They're longingly searching for the tell-tale sign their neighborhood has been blessed by the Fios gods: spools of orange fiber optic cable on Verizon trucks. The deployment of Verizon fiber has cable executives in a sweat, prompting them to offer speeds their networks may not yet fully support in volume.

If you weren't aware by now, Verizon's fiber to the home technology comes in three flavors: 5Mbps/2Mbps for $40, 15Mbps/2Mbps for $50, or 30Mbps/5Mbps for $200 a month. BroadbandReports' Verizon Fios forum users maintain an excellent FAQ.

Many (including me) have been hard on Verizon in the past for their blatant ripoff of Pennsylvanians and their efforts to tell people they can't wire their own city with broadband; but they deserve full credit here. Their multi-billion dollar next generation broadband deployment is making everything else look like tin cans and string. How far they're willing to go with deployment is a worry saved for another day (say, March of 2008).

In Northern Virginia and portions of Rhode Island, the deployments have Cox Communication execs worried. With recent DOCSIS 2.0 upgrades completed, they've started offering a 15Mbps/2Mbps tier. Likewise Adelphia has unveiled their own 16Mbps Virginia tier. According to DSLPrime's Dave Burstein however, the offerings are largely a public relations move while the cable industry buys time for upgrades.

"It's really 38 meg shared among 100 or so users, the same speed as the current services advertised at as 3 and 7 meg," says Burstein of Cox's new tier. "That's too much over-subscription to deliver 15 meg most of the time, if even 5 or 10 people are downloading on the node. To regularly get past today's 5 meg or so, you need to bond more channels, which is what DOCSIS 3.0 offers," he tells us.

The channel bonding offered by the DOCSIS 3.0 standard - which doesn't exist yet - and isn't expected to start showing up until well into 2006 - is what Comcast CEO Brian Roberts keeps hinting at when he states that 100+Mbps cable is inevitable. In the interim, his company should announce new speeds this month that are closer to 10Mbps.

Keep in mind though that this is a half-decade long process, and for every Fairfax Virginia, there's entire swaths of Charter, Qwest or middle America Cox markets that number crunchers couldn't care less about. As it stands, Verizon is in the driver's seat when it comes to next-gen deployment: Burstein predicts half of all Verizon users will have fiber within three to four years.

Content Credit:
Karl Bode