Broadband is the only way for rural telcos to be competitive and, in some instances, to continue to be in business. And delivering broadband--especially when it includes a triple play of voice, video and data services, is not an inexpensive proposition for companies that are seeing traditional funding dry up or go away thanks to new federal regulations and new players like satellite broadband and 4G wireless come into their markets with their own broadband plays.
Nevertheless, "in the long term, broadband is fundamental" to these operators, said Carol Wilson, chief editor of events for Light Reading, at TelcoTV 2012 in Las Vegas Wednesday.
Wilson made her remarks while announcing that starting next year TelcoTV would be renamed TelcoVision but will continue to look at a "future that's based on broadband."
If rural telcos, at whom TelcoTV is aimed, are going to be part of that future, though, they're going to have to figure out a way to get more from their existing networks because, almost to a company, they can't afford to deploy fiber anywhere near the home.
"It's very, very challenging to be in the telco business right now," said Jerome Joanny, vice president of product marketing for ASSIA. "The market expects value-added services [like IPTV] now."
While the existing plant probably can't currently deliver those services and meet that demand, "you can squeeze your copper plant to deliver a lot more bandwidth," Joanny promised during a panel session entitled "Making the Most of Your Copper Infrastructure."
ASSIA proposes using its DSL Management Solution to accomplish the task of delivering a maximum of 100 Mbps of downstream throughput over a single copper pair, he said.
Keith Russell, product manager of Alcatel-Lucent, thinks VDSL2 vectoring will do the job of pushing higher throughputs because its noise cancelation capabilities normalize all lines for smooth transport of IPTV signals.
Vectoring, though, has its drawbacks, Russell admitted.
"This does mean an upgrade to your existing network," he conceded. "You're going to obviously have to get closer to the subscriber." Troubleshooting is also more complex because the operator must look at the "entire binder" rather than a single line when searching out a network problem.
Vectoring also requires operators to change or, in an optimal case with new technology coming out, reconfigure existing consumer premises equipment.
And, said Joanny, piling on a bit, "you can't roll it out in one day." He suggested using DSL Management over the entire network and "progressively roll[ing] out vectoring without worrying" about issues that might impact IPTV quality.
Both those solutions require the operator to move electronics as close to the end user as possible--in one case with DSL Management within 900 feet. That's not generally economically feasible for operators who have customers 10,000 to 30,000 feet from a DSLAM or central office, said Dave Auer, director of channels, America, at Actelis, who proposed a method called the Broadband Accelerator.
The B.A. is basically an "analog broadband amplifier" that is spliced into the line between the DSLAM and the residence to boost network performance, he said. It can--or should--deliver 15 to 30 megabits of bandwidth per household which would minimally feed a triple play offer.
The goal, Auer said, is "to keep those customers happy with something you can deploy today."
However it's accomplished, all three vendors agreed there is a need for more bandwidth, and the ultimate FTTH goal is probably out of reach for many rural telcos.
"It's just economics," concluded Russell.
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