Originally created 06/12/06

Questions and answers about fiber to the home



Q: I hear fiber is better because it's a connection straight to the home, not shared with my neighbors like cable. Is that right?

A: This is a common misconception, stoked by telephone companies. In fact, under Verizon's model, each fiber coming from the local telephone building is split 32 times, to connect up to 32 homes that share a signal. This method, known as PON, or Passive Optical Networking, is cheaper than drawing dedicated fiber to the home.

However, with the tremendous capacity available on fiber, it doesn't really matter. And if bandwidth should run out at some point in the future, fiber networks can be upgraded to accommodate.

Q: I notice the fiber buildouts are in the suburbs. When am I going to get fiber in the city?

A: That's probably going to take years. Verizon has done a few apartment buildings, but its current technology works best in the suburbs.

"The issue with apartment buildings is getting access to run the fiber cable all the way to the apartment," says Paul Lacouture, who is in charge of the technical side of Verizon's fiber deployment.

Verizon has technology coming in the next few months that would allow it to draw fiber into the basement, then use the building's existing coaxial cable, but that doesn't really qualify as fiber to the home.

"We definitely are going to be into the multi-dwelling building market, and we'll have a variety of solutions depending on the circumstances," Lacouture said.

Q: Apart from Verizon, who else is drawing fiber to homes?

A: According to research firm RVA LLC, Verizon accounts for about 400,000, or 60 percent of the 671,000 homes connected with fiber. Other large companies like BellSouth Corp., AT&T Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. have small trial deployments and are laying fiber in new developments.

Smaller phone companies have connected about 140,000 homes, while municipalities and public utilities have 60,000 connected. Real-estate developers and cable companies make up the rest.

Internationally, Japan already has 11.5 percent of its households connected by fiber, according to RVA's Michael Render, compared to 0.6 percent in the United States. Europe, however, trails the United States.