Verizon's CTO talks

Mark Wegleitner, Verizon's chief technology officer, dishes the dirt on where the company is headed from a technology perspective in the next few years.

CHICAGO--Verizon's CTO Mark Wegleitner addressed a room full of reporters here Monday night on the eve of the NXTComm telecom tradeshow. During his brief talk, which followed a heavy meal of porterhouse steaks and veal chops at the famed Gibson's Steakhouse, he gave a glimpse into some new features and functionality that will soon be coming to the company's Fios, all-fiber network.

Here are some of the highlights:

Fios on speed: Verizon is already in the process of upgrading its Fios network to a technology called GPON or gigabit passive optical network, which will quadruple the capacity of the network. Wegleitner said this upgrade should give the company enough capacity to satisfy customers' needs for at least another three to four years. After that, he said, the company is already testing new technologies, such as 10GPON and another called Wave Division Multiplexing or WDM, which splits the light on each fiber to provide one wavelength per household. The verdict is still out on which technology the company will use, but the ultimate goal is to eventually deliver 100 megabits per second to any device in the home.

Troubleshooting from afar: Using a remote management standard called TR-69, Verizon will be able to peer into TV set-top boxes to fix problems without ever sending a technician to your home. Today, Verizon is able to do some diagnostics on the network to test for particular problem, but Wegleitner admitted today's capabilities aren't much different from what the cable industry already provides. But that will soon change. Using this remote management technology, Verizon will be able to do much more than ping devices and reboot them from afar. The function is still in development, but Wegleitner said it should be commercially available in the first half of next year.

IPTV all the way: Verizon has built its Fios TV service on what's considered a hybrid network. It uses IP to deliver video on demand and games. But it uses more traditional cable-like infrastructure to deliver broadcast TV. Wegleitner said the hybrid approach has served the company well, allowing it to quickly provide TV service to 348,000 homes as of the end of the first quarter of 2007.

"At the time we started the Fios deployment, we didn't think IPTV would be able to scale quickly enough," he said. "So we found a better way. We developed a hybrid solution that gave us the scale we needed along with some flexibility."

Still, he admitted that IP inherently provides more flexibility than traditional video infrastructure. And because of that fact, Verizon will migrate more video services onto IP over the next three to four years. Eventually, he said the entire Fios TV infrastructure will run over an IP network, much like what AT&T is offering today.

High-definition video-on-demand on-the-way: These days everyone and his brother is hot for high-definition TV programming. Wegleitner said "in a matter of months" Verizon will offer some of its video-on-demand content in HD. He wouldn't get more specific about the timing, except to say that Verizon is testing the service in its labs today.

I'll be sitting down with Wegleitner on Tuesday for a more in depth one-on-one interview, so look for a Newsmaker later in the week. I'm also working on a feature looking more closely at Verizon's Fios service. That too should be posted later in the week, so keep your eyes peeled. And if any Fios subscribers want to share their thoughts on the service, please feel free to e-mail me at maggie.reardon@cnet.com.

 

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