Furthering its broadband strategy, BellSouth Corp. will
offer digital video and high-speed Internet access in an Atlanta trial using fiber optic
networks running directly to homes.
After installing a passive optical network to about 400
homes, the Atlanta-based Baby Bell will offer residential services that include up to 221
channels of digital and analog video, plus digital-music channels and Internet access at
speeds of up to 100 megabits per second.
BellSouth will use the asynchronous transfer mode
data-networking protocol, enabling it to offer significantly higher data speeds and
potentially wider availability than digital-subscriber-line technology, the consumer
broadband platform most frequently deployed by telcos so far.
Running fiber to the home advances BellSouth's plan,
announced last year, to spend $200 million to replace existing copper lines with fiber to
the curb for 200,000 homes in metro Atlanta and metro Miami's Dade and Broward counties as
a platform for advanced data, video and voice services. The Baby Bell also installs fiber
as its preferred infrastructure in new subdivisions.
The concept of pushing fiber even deeper into the network
has been a hot topic both for phone companies and their cable-system rivals, as they look
for cost-effective ways to deliver more bandwidth for supporting advanced consumer
Cable operators such as AT&T Broadband & Internet
Services -- which plans to test a "micronode" architecture that pushes fiber to
possibly every 50 homes passed, instead of every 500 or 1,000 -- also expect cost savings
by trimming "active" network elements, which require electronic amplification,
and adding "passive" optical networks.
"Fiber to the home is BellSouth's ultimate platform
for satisfying our customers' voracious appetite for bandwidth -- an appetite that is
growing at exponential rates," BellSouth Science and Technology executive director
Dave Kettler said in a prepared statement.
BellSouth's FTTH setup includes optical-access network
equipment developed by Lucent Technologies, such as a network-termination unit installed
inside the home for converting optical signals from the fiber to high-speed Ethernet data,
which can be used by subscribers' personal computers.
Customer-premises equipment also includes analog
optical-networking gear developed by Oki Electric Industry Co. Ltd. for relaying video
signals to the television.
Announcement of the ATM-platform trial coincided with
MediaOne Group Inc.'s launch of digital video last week in portions of suburban Atlanta's
MediaOne also offers high-speed Internet access via the
Road Runner cable modem service and circuit-switched telephony over its cable system.
Like other telcos, BellSouth is offering DSL service with a
goal of 5 million lines in 30 markets by year's end. The company also provides video
service in Atlanta through its Americast multipoint multichannel distribution service
(wireless cable) system.