Telecom may be emphasising DSL as its ubiquitous last-mile IP delivery solution, but it is at the same time trialling optical fibre networking for residential and commercial premises at the Flat Bush greenfield subdivision in Manukau, south Auckland.
The fibre to the premises (FTTP) pilot was announced mid-August and is “early in the planning and development stages”, according to Telecom’s general manager of technology investment, Stephen Crombie.
Crombie says the trial is in two parts, with residential and commercial components, but it has some 18 months' more work left before becoming fully operational.
Telecom wants to use the Flat Bush pilot as a testbed for a developing “innovative services” beyond the usual internet connections, according to Crombie. Some of these services include video on demand and, ultimately, voice over the fibre link, says Crombie.
While the residential service details are “not fully finalised yet”, Crombie says the commercial service will be similar to Telecom's Metro Ethernet product. No pricing is available yet for either the residential or the commercial services and Crombie won't reveal specifications at this stage.
Telecom hasn’t yet decided on the suppliers for the pilot, but Crombie says Alcatel is involved.
Asked if the Flat Bush pilot spelt the beginning of the end of DSL, Crombie says no, adding that “optical fibre is still significantly more costly”. Using existing copper wiring and running DSL over it is still Telecom’s choise of “mass-scale technology” for delivering IP networking to premises, he says.
“It’s a big leap for us to deploy fibre into residential areas,” Crombie says. The Flat Bush pilot aims to gauge the market interest in fast networking delivered over optical fibre, which in turn will influence future such deployments by Telecom.
Fibre-optic connections to premises are starting to take off in New Zealand, with networks being rolled out in Palmerston North by Inspired Networks and in South Auckland by Counties Power/Wired Country.
In Japan, a government-sponsored initiative starting next year seeks to deliver IP connections of up to 10Gbit/s to premises using optical fibre by 2010. Currently, Japanese internet customers can get 100Mbit/s over optical fibre.
The goal for the Japanese is to develop technology that doesn’t require “media conversion” or translating optical signals into electrical ones. The conversion is complicated and introduces latency that hampers transmission efficiency. The Japanese hope that by developing “conversion-less” technology, they will not only gain a hundred-fold boost in speed but also make their network equipment industry more competitive.