NBN: Fibre to the world

Summary:In this feature, ZDNet explores how fibre deployments across the UK, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States are being achieved, at what cost, whether they have been successful, and how they compare to Australia's NBN.

The United States

  • Project: Fibre to the node with wireless component

  • Area: 9,827,000 km2

  • Population: 314 million

  • Premises to be passed: 16.3 million by AT&T

  • Coverage: 22 states for AT&T: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin

  • Cost: VDSL2 upgrades to cost US$14 billion (AU$13.4 billion), overall investment US$98 billion (AU$94 billion)

  • Government/private/mix: Private

AT&T is rolling out a mixture of FttN and FttP across 22 states of the US for its U-verse network that not only provides broadband, but also TV services. FttP is generally reserved for new housing premises in affluent areas. AT&T embarked on its fibre-to-the-node project in 2006, and estimates put the total number of new premises getting VDSL at 90 percent.

An AT&T spokesperson told ZDNet that by the end of 2015, the company will have 75 percent of its customers covered with a fixed service, either by fibre to the node or fibre to the premises. The rest of the 300 million who live outside of that coverage will be able to sign up to AT&T's 4G network by the end of 2014. The process will see AT&T decommission its DSL network.

The spokesperson said that AT&T decided to go for a mix of FttN and FttP because it is faster and more cost effective to deploy "bandwidth needed to support both broadband internet access and [the] AT&T U-verse video service".

FttP is reserved for new premises, multi-dwelling units (MDUs), and businesses, the spokesperson said.

"As a matter of fact, with Project VIP, our fibre deployment is expected to reach 1 million additional business customer locations, covering 50 percent of multi-tenant office buildings in AT&T's wireline service area by year end 2015."

The maximum speed on offer for broadband over both FttP and FttN for residential is 24Mbps down and 3Mbps up. AT&T offers scalable Ethernet connections for business customers.

The pricing for U-verse services varies from US$41 per month for a 4Mbps plan up to US$66 per month for 24Mbps. Each plan comes with 250GB of data per month. AT&T doesn't wholesale services on its network, meaning that AT&T is the only provider on its network.

In November last year, the company announced expansion plans that will increase its high-speed access to offer speeds of up to 75Mbps using vectoring.

AT&T isn't the only company with fibre services in the US. Verizon was one of the first companies in the US to explore fibre to the premises as its choice of network, launching FiOS back in 2005.

It's unclear how much Verizon has spent on the fibre rollout. The company has invested US$23 billion in FiOS since 2004, but that is contested.

There are 5.4 million subscribers on the FiOS network, and it extends out to 17.6 million premises.

The company is continuing to upgrade its legacy copper network over to fibre, saying that it is targeting the "high-maintenance portions" of the network. The company migrated 223,000 premises in 2012, and has set the target of moving over 300,000 in 2013. The service is already available in at least 16 states in the US.

FiOS has a number of tiered speed plans (PDF), starting at 15Mbps down and 5Mbps up, right up to 300Mbps down and 65Mbps up. Prices start at US$69.99 per month for the lowest-speed plan, and range up to US$209.99 per month for the fastest service.

Google, famously, is offering relatively cheap 1Gbps plans on its FttP network in Kanas City for, at most, US$120 per month. While Google is expanding this network, it has not announced plans for a major network rollout across the US.

Topics: NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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