Global telcos aim to bring fibre to homes

Fibre-optic networks are well established as a secure and reliable medium for long-range business connections, and on Tuesday four telecommunications companies announced a specification aimed at bringing their benefits to home users as well.

BellSouth, British Telecommunications, France Telecom and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone have agreed on a common specification for high-capacity optical network-access systems, which they hope will deliver optical networking to both home and business environments at minimized cost.

"Life-cycle costs on fibre-based systems tend to be less than for systems based on other technologies, hence the cost to the consumer can be lower than what it would be with other systems," said BellSouth spokesman John Goldman.

The companies believe that "fibre to the home" is a crucial element in supplying sufficient bandwidth for new services and for future data, video and imaging applications.

"This will initially be due to the increased bandwidth available at the premises . . . [which makes it] possible to serve thin clients with very rich content," Goldman said. "This architecture also makes it possible to deliver higher bandwidth to 'thick' clients such as PCs as well, enabling applications that run on 'thick' clients but require higher bandwidths than are economically available today."

The four telcos agreed on the specification as part of the Full Service Access Network (FSAN) initiative (http://www.labs.bt.com/profsoc/access), a worldwide group of 20 network operators, inlcuding Telstra, hoping to develop asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) passive optical networks.

ATM multiplexes voice, data and video traffic from various sources onto a single highway, and then directs it to the proper destination. Cost savings are expected as a result of passive power dividers that allow sharing of central office equipment and feeder fibre costs.

"Services will probably be easier and faster to turn up" on fibre-based ATM passive optical networks than on existing legacy systems, Goldman said. "This will lead to better response times and better customer satisfaction."

According to the companies, development of products "with minimal operator-specific requirements" is the next step in the initiative.

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