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SBC taps Alcatel for fiber connections

The phone service provider says it has reached a four-year deal with Alcatel to supply equipment for its much-anticipated push to build high-speed fiber-optic connections to homes and offices.

U.S. telephone service provider SBC Communications said Tuesday it has reached a four-year deal with Alcatel to supply equipment for its much-anticipated push to build high-speed fiber-optic connections to homes and offices.

SBC evaluated proposals from 20 companies since before deciding on Alcatel, company spokesman Jason Hillery said. Alcatel was among the favorites because SBC had already used Alcatel equipment to outfit a San Francisco business and residential complex with an example of what's known as "fiber to the premises," or FTTP.

SBC, Bellsouth and Verizon Communications say FTTP will counter the growing threat from the nation's top five cable companies, which within the last year began complementing their cable TV and broadband services with over an Internet connection.

Telephone companies eventually want to sell cable TV and videos on demand to complete their own hat trick of service offerings. But the current copper infrastructure that connects homes to their national network has only enough bandwidth to support broadband and voice.

"With FTTP, the carriers get tremendous, essentially unlimited, bandwidth," said Hilary Mine, Alcatel senior vice president of marketing.

The three major U.S. phone companies all announced their fiber intentions last year, but the plodding pace of the equipment testing they launched in June has sparked concern they were backing away from their original plans. "This is a big first step to advance test and develop this technology," SBC's Hillery said. "Now that we're able to focus on Alcatel, we can complete lab trials and move this out and do a field trial."

In November, Verizon Communications chose Advanced Fibre Communications as its lead supplier of fiber-optic equipment to deliver broadband to millions more homes and offices. It also plans to use equipment from Sumitomo Electric Lightwave, Pirelli Communications Cables and Systems North America, and Fiber Optic Network Solutions (FONS). Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

A BellSouth spokesman said that company is still evaluating FTTP proposals from equipment makers, but does not foresee a decision in the near future.