Verizon Communications is planning a major push of its fiber-to-the-home service into multidwelling units (MDUs) this year. Despite passing 2.1 million MDUs at the end of last year’s third quarter, Verizon’s FTTH network was only capable of serving 400,000 of them. The company’s technology director, Vincent O’Byrne, spoke with Telephony’s Ed Gubbins at the OFC show in San Diego this week about Verizon’s plans for MDUs this year.
On the delay in penetrating MDUs: One of the main items was obviously cost. It can be more expensive to serve MDUs. Also the availability of common ONTs [optical network terminals], which were introduced last year. And of course there’s the access to coax. Partly associated with that is the ability to offer similar kinds of services we have for single family units (SFUs), where we have broadcast TV. One of the breakthroughs that will help us a lot is GPON, which will allow us to, as we migrate to IPTV, support that in the MDU. In addition to that, in 2008 there’s been a large push to, in cases where we’re deploying SFU ONTs in MDUs, to reduce the overall cost by introducing bendable fiber, which will allow the deployment to occur quicker and save time in installation. There are also other items we’re utilizing from the [outside plant] such as VATs—Verizon Advanced Terminals--where you pre-engineer the facility for fiber deployment. So it becomes a lot easier and quicker to get the fiber to the living unit, to the SFU device in there.
On why MDUs are more expensive to reach: A large part of the cost is pulling the fiber. If you have to pull anything up the risers, it can be expensive. That’s where the whole idea of the common ONT was designed, to allow us some economies of scale. That hasn’t taken off as much as we’d hoped, to date. Just from a planning perspective, it typically comes later than an SFU; you want to get the SFU out there as quickly as possible. That allows us to use the wiring in the MDU that’s already there.
On disappointment in the common ONT: It’s just getting it out there into the field. We have a lot of items in the pipeline, so getting it support with IT, there’s special code for provisioning. Where it stacks up, it typically will become available 3 to 6 months after the SFU. The majority of our deployments to MDUs have used SFU devices. This common ONT--which we started on BPON and we will be having on GPON this year, probably mid-year--will add to the different types of ONTs. We can better match which ONT is best for a given MDU. The economics change depending on how you define the MDU: 2-, 4-, 6- or 12-family. Common ONTs are built on a module of 12 living units per box.
On Clearcurve flexible fiber: There is an expected date [for deployment]. I don’t think we’ve made it public. It’s going to be probably in the first half of the year. There are several advantages. One is being able to deploy it quicker. That will become a lot easier to determine once we deploy it en masse. Each MDU has to be engineered separately. It’s only after you have a lot of stats that you can figure out how much it costs. Even if our techs have to go back and do something else on the plant, the fact that they’re touching it will cause less issues. That’s why we’re also looking at it for the OSP in splitter hubs and things like that. Fat fingers have a tendency to cause issues. Just touching the splitter and the fiber, it becomes very sensitive to people touching the fiber. So this will allow us to reduce the size of a lot of equipment.
On the link between the basement and the apartment unit: For BPON, it’s all VDSL1; for GPON, it’s all VDSL2. We’d set the locations of the MDUs so that the furthest person [from the common ONT], or at least the modems, is around 500 feet [away]. [Speeds are] around 35 Mb/s downstream, 10 Mb/s upstream on VDSL1 and BPON. On GPON it’s expected to be like 75 Mb/s downstream. We also use broadcast [RF video] and IP VOD. It all goes on the copper wires. At the apartment, you’d have a VDSL modem. The output of that modem would be Ethernet into the broadband home router. With GPON, that modem is integrated into the router.
On SFU ONT innovation: We have an ONT called the “Just Inside” ONT because it’s installed just inside the house. It’s about 10” by 19”. We’re looking for something smaller and more user-friendly. Our design target is 8” by 8”. At present, the Just Inside is a good concept, but it’s not fully integrated. Its size is the sum of its parts. If it’s more efficient, the batteries can get smaller. We’re also looking for different battery chemistries so we’re not just stuck with lead acid batteries. Maybe lithium ion or even alkaline in case of emergencies.