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CTOs: Copper still critical
By Carol Wilson

Jun 18, 2008 2:56 PM

LAS VEGAS--Service providers are squeezing all they can out of their existing networks, even as they invest in new IP-based core networks and look to offer new access services as well, the three participants in Wednesday’s Broadband in the Loop NXTcomm keynote panel agreed.

“We will squeeze as much as possible from our copper plant,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO of Telus, which is also deploying GPON local-loop fiber optics. “We are dying to do VDSL-2 bonding. Today we put some small businesses on a consumer platform, even though the bandwidth is not symmetrical, but we’d like to do more.”

“Networks last a lot longer than we think they will,” said Dennis Hinkel, senior vice president of network and operations for Cincinnati Bell. Typically, when new technology is introduced, customers are rolled onto the new systems and off old networks as their needs change, Hinkel said. “I find customers don’t often migrate to new technologies as quickly as I might have hoped.”

Randy Nicklas, CTO of XO Communications, made an appeal on two fronts on behalf of his company. First, he called for continued access to copper pairs as unbundled network elements and second, he asked for vendors to offer lower price points on legacy network equipment.

“We need to make sure we have access to copper pairs, because there is one technology that uses these – Ethernet over copper,” Nicklas said. Access to copper could become a regulatory issue if incumbents start de-commissioning copper loops as they deploy fiber. “We sell Ethernet over copper access to our IP network, so we need that continued access to copper. Fiber is great, obviously, but fiber will take a long time to pass everywhere in the U.S.”

XO continues to operate its SONET network and while it isn’t developing new services or systems for that network, the competitive carriers does buy equipment to augment the network and would like its vendors to offer that gear at lower price points, Nicklas said. XO also still sells circuit-based switching products to customers not ready to migrate to IP.

“We still do a healthy business selling PRIs [primary rate interface circuits] because there are still people who haven’t migrated to IP,” Nicklas said.

Gedeon said his biggest concern right now is a shortage of people, particularly the skilled people needed to manage and understand the new IT technology being deployed in the telecom network. Having made the leap to IP in 2004, Telus is now working on its service delivery framework and other means of intelligence to make sure its services going forward are decoupled from the underlying core network, Gedeon said.

Part of that network intelligence will be used to create a higher quality Internet experience, “so it becomes a toll road,” Gedeon said. “The Googles and the Yahoos of the world can still use the long country road if they want, for free.”

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