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Verizon demos 1Gbps over existing fiber network

Another poke in the eye for AT&T

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Verizon has conducted a demo in which it pumped nearly a gigabit per second to a remote customer over its existing fiber infrastructure.

"This trial demonstrated that the current architecture has sufficient headroom to allow for a progressive increase in capacity as needed by our residential and business customers on our current GPON platform," the trial's manager, Vincent O'Byrne, said in a company statement.

The GPON platform to which O'Byrne referred is Verizon's gigabit passive optical network — more prosaically known as ITU-T G.984 (PDF) — which supports the company's FiOS (fiber-optic service) offerings.

Verizon's GPON peaks out at 2.4Gbps downstream and 1.2Gbps upstream throughput. The field test, run in June but not announced until Monday, was conducted at the company's Taunton, Massachusetts, call-switching office, moving data across its existing, live network, to a 1Gbps optical network terminal (ONT) at a Verizon FiOS customer's business.

Throughput was measured both locally and at what Verizon describes as a "regional speed test server located more than 400 miles away." Local throughput was 925Mbps; remote throughput was clocked at "more than 800 Mbps". During the test, the customer's existing FiOS hook-up, according to Verizon, showed no degradation in voice, data, or video services.

The success of the test, said O'Byrne, "validates our decision to support both residential and business services on the same [GPON] platform."

Brian Whitton, executive director of Verizon's technology group, put a marketing spin on the results. "This kind of bandwidth capacity will provide Verizon the ability to continue to meet FiOS customers' needs by offering more bandwidth to support services such as 3DTV, ultra HDTV, multiplayer gaming and HD video conferencing," he said.

Verizon will need to lure a horde of subscribers to those services to recoup its $23bn FiOS/FTTP (fiber to the premises) investment. When the company began replacing copper with fiber in May of 2004, many questioned whether it made financial sense to invest so heavily in fiber-optic infrastructure, especially at a time when landline-based entertainment and other relatively high-bandwidth services were still dominated by copper cable.

In 2008, Verizon's now-SVP and controller Robert Barish told the New York Times: "The network we are putting in is pretty future-proof" — and as this recent 1Gbps test indicates, that statement appears to have been prescient.

With landline telephone service fading, and with the public's seemingly insatiable hunger for increased bandwidth, Verizon's investment appears to have been a smart move — and one that gives it a clear edge over cable-cramped competitor AT&T.

Whether that edge can allow Verizon to recoup a hefty $23bn, however, remains to be seen. But as the saying goes, one can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much bandwidth. ®

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