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Verizon prepares for next generation of broadband

Telecom giant selects vendors to upgrade its fiber network to eventually offer consumers up to 100Mbps broadband.

Verizon Communications has yet to finish building its multibillion-dollar fiber network, but it's already taking steps to upgrade it to the next generation of technology, which will quadruple the amount of bandwidth capacity available to each home.

Verizon announced on Thursday that it has chosen Alcatel, Motorola and Tellabs to provide equipment based on the latest fiber-to-the-home standard called gigabit passive optical network, or GPON.

Passive optical network technology, or PON, is an optical-access system that lets multiple homes or businesses in a neighborhood share fiber from a service provider's central office. The most widely used PON standard today is broadband passive optical networks or BPON, which splits 622Mbps (megabits per second) of downstream bandwidth and 155Mbps of upstream bandwidth among 32 homes or businesses.

By contrast, GPON allows Verizon to split 2.4Gbps (gigabits per second) of capacity downstream and 1.2Gbps of capacity upstream among 32 homes or business. This essentially quadruples the available downstream bandwidth and offers eight times the bandwidth for upstream traffic. (A gigabit is a thousand megabits.)

This boost in speed should help Verizon eventually offer consumers up to 100Mbps downloads into their homes, the company said. Today, the carrier typically offers services of 5Mbps, 15Mbps and 30Mbps. In some locations, it offers 50Mbps.

"The GPON technology gives us a lot more headroom," said Mark Marchand, a spokesman for Verizon. "This will really be important as we start offering more high-definition movies on demand to our customers."

Verizon said it will start deploying the new GPON gear later this year, as it continues to expand its Fios fiber network. As of 2005, the fiber network was available to 3 million homes and businesses. The company is on track to make it available to another 3 million by the end of 2006. The company hasn't yet released data on how many customers have actually signed up for the Fios service.

The three equipment companies selected by Verizon also supplied it with the current BPON technology, which is expected to help simplify the upgrades.