Friday, February 09, 2007

Project Lightspeed appears headed on failed course of Project Pronto

Near the start of the current decade, AT&T (then SBC Communications) announced an initiative called Project Pronto. The goal was to speed up the deployment of high speed Internet services — Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) over copper cable and twisted pair — to 80 percent of the phone company’s service area by 2002 and throughout its entire service area by last year. Both deadlines were missed, with about one in five customers still unable to obtain any broadband services from the telco.

AT&T’s latest initiative is dubbed Project Lightspeed. Unlike the failed Project Pronto, Project Lightspeed — AT&T’s scheme to offer a so-called triple play menu of services including telephone, broadband and IPTV (Internet Protocol TV over phone lines) contains no self imposed deadlines. That’s a good thing because it’s moving well below the speed of light, BusinessWeek reports this week.

AT&T wants to make all three digital services run over its existing copper cable, and industry analysts are questioning whether copper — designed to carry low bandwidth analog voice services — can provide enough bandwidth to accommodate the huge bandwidth needs of high definition IPTV. AT&T "competitor" Verizon doesn’t think copper is up to the job and is instead committed to doing triple play over fiber optic cable to the doorstep. By contrast, AT&T finds itself caught between its desire to keep up with Verizon and the cable companies in the market for triple play services and its reluctance to let go of its legacy copper cable plant, a reluctance that ensures an early death for Project Lightspeed and make AT&T an also ran in the triple play game.

In a competitive market — the kind of competitive market envisioned by the federal telecommunications reform legislation enacted in 1996 — the stage would appear to be set for Verizon to eat Ma Bell’s lunch. The problem is there is no true competitive market for residential telecommunications services. Verizon refuses to compete in AT&T’s service area and vice versa. So there’s little pressure on AT&T to upgrade its aging copper cable-based system to fiber. Meanwhile, AT&T residential customers suffer, with large numbers unable to obtain even a “double play” of voice and broadband service promised years ago by the not-so-pronto Project Pronto let alone the triple play of Project Lightspeed.

No comments:

Web Analytics