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Verizon announces final fiber suppliers

The Baby Bell has completed its vendor selection and is poised to begin deploying "fiber to the premises."

Verizon Communications has taken the final step before it begins construction of its "fiber to the premises," or FTTP, network, which is expected to begin in early 2004.

On Monday the company announced it has selected the last of its equipment suppliers. The four vendors named will supply the carrier with fiber-optic cabling and other outside plant equipment, also known as the "passive" elements of the FTTP system. The vendors are Corning Cable Systems, a subsidiary of Corning; ADC; Preformed Line Products; and Tyco Electronics.

FTTP has become a hot technology issue as local incumbent phone companies increasingly feel pressure from cable providers, which have begun offering local and long-distance calling, in addition to cable TV and broadband services.

Last year Verizon, SBC Communications and BellSouth announced plans to deploy the high-speed, high-capacity FTTP systems to homes and businesses. In June they adopted technical standards and issued a joint request for proposals to equipment suppliers. But the slow pace of testing and vendor selection prompted some analysts and investors to question the telephone companies' commitment to deploying the technology.

Recent announcements by Verizon and SBC have helped quell skepticism. In November, Verizon announced Advanced Fibre Communications as its lead vendor for the central-office electronics. It also announced other equipment suppliers including, Sumitomo Electric Lightwave, Pirelli Communications Cables and Systems North America, and Fiber Optic Network Solutions (FONS).

Verizon also detailed specifics of its launch at that time. In the first half of 2004, it expects to begin initial test-deployments in at least two communities. By the end of the year, it expects to have deployed the new technology in over 100 central offices across nine states. In total the carrier, says it will "pass," or make fiber accessible to, about 1 million homes in 2004, with the deployment pace potentially doubling in 2005.

SBC has followed Verizon's lead with its own announcements. Last week, it announced Alcatel as its main equipment supplier. BellSouth has yet to announce any vendor contracts.

"Although timing remains a wild card, we are convinced the carriers recognize the need to evolve networks," said Simon Leopold, an analyst from Merrill Lynch, in a research note earlier this month.

Cable providers and telephone companies are going after what has been dubbed the telecommunications "triple play," an offering of cable TV and video on demand, high-speed data and Internet Protocol telephony. Up to this point, phone companies have lacked the video portion, since their current copper infrastructure connecting homes to their national network has only enough bandwidth to support broadband and voice.

The new FTTP technology is expected to solve this problem since it is capable of transferring data at speeds up to 622 megabits per second to users and 155 mbps to the network, much faster than cable modems or today's digital subscriber