SBC Tunes Into IP-Based TV

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SBC Communications plans to offer IP (Internet Protocol) TV over a fiber-based network by the end of next year, the carrier says.

The fiber network will reach 18 million potential customers by the end of 2007 and will be able to deliver to a household four simultaneous streams of TV, including high-definition TV, in addition to IP-based data and voice services, the company says.

Like the other major U.S. telecommunications carriers, SBC aims to compete against a growing menu of services from cable operators by bringing fiber closer to homes and small businesses, thereby dramatically boosting network capacity. Verizon Communications earlier this year started rolling out a commercial FTTP (fiber-to-the-premise) service that brings fiber in to customers' homes.

SBC's rollout, called "Project Lightspeed," has an aggressive goal: Within five years, SBC hopes to be the number 2 video provider in areas where it has fiber, says Lea Ann Champion, senior executive vice president of IP operations and services, in a conference call this week. It plans to leapfrog traditional cable services with features such as interactive guides and multiple camera angles, according to SBC.

Saving Time and Money

SBC plans to save time and money by laying fiber in most cases only to neighborhood nodes. This FTTN (fiber to the node) strategy will allow the carrier to roll out its service in one-fourth the time and on one-fifth the capital expense that would have been required to bring fiber all the way to homes, Champion says. It will use FTTP in new housing developments as well as in multiple tenant dwellings and some areas where the network needs to be rehabilitated, she says. The rollout will cost about $4 billion, coming in at the low end of an earlier estimate that ranged up to a possible $6 billion, Champion says.

FTTN will deliver most of the capabilities of FTTP, according to SBC. It will bring fiber to a node less than 5000 feet from homes and use advanced forms of DSL and data compression to maximize the capacity of the remaining copper lines, delivering 20 megabits per second to 25 mbps of bandwidth downstream. FTTP can offer as much as 39 mbps, according to SBC's presentation.

FTTN will make up most of the deployment, with 17 million homes reached via that technology vs. 1 million reached with FTTP, SBC says. Lab and field trials are already under way and construction is set to begin in the first quarter of 2005, the company says.

SBC's primary operating areas are California, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Connecticut.

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