Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Verizon abandons PSTN, commits to next generation IP-based services

Verizon has become the first big telco to fully commit to next generation Internet Protocol-based service delivered over fiber in which the Internet replaces the publicly switched telephone network (PSTN) designed for plain old telephone service (POTS) delivered over twisted pair copper wire.

“We don’t look any different than Google,” Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg told a Goldman Sachs investor conference last week. “We can begin to look at eliminating central offices, call centers and garages.” Seidenberg's remarks were reported in Saul Hansell's Bits column in The New York Times.

That means a much smaller, shrinking wireline footprint for Verizon as the company sells off its old copper plant and deploys its FiOS fiber to the premises plant. In effect, Verizon is starting almost from scratch to build a new wireline plant. And just as with the early copper cable plant, urban areas will see it many years before those living outside them will. That sets the stage for history to repeat the cycle of the early copper POTS deployments of a century ago in which less densely populated areas established telecom cooperatives in the meantime. Only this time the coops will be putting up fiber instead of metal.

In contrast to Verizon, the dominant American telco, AT&T, is trying to keep one foot in its PSTN past by attempting to pound the square peg of ever increasing IP-based bandwidth demand -- particularly for video -- into the round hole of copper POTS with its Project Lightspeed/U-Verse FTTN architecture. This gambit leaves AT&T far less strategic headroom and could ultimately lead to the company getting out of residential wireline altogether in the first part of 2010.

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