Don't expect fiber upgrades as telcos transition to IP-based networks

It’s about avoiding the mess.

There’s no cosmic plan to replace copper telephone wires with glass. That’s the clear message coming out of a panel discussion at the Comptel trade show in Las Vegas this week. In an article for Fierce Telecom, Sean Buckley reports that executives from AT&T, CenturyLink and Frontier agreed that there are no plans in the works for wide scale replacement of copper with fiber, but they will look at ending support for plain old telephone networks on a case-by-case basis…

‘Today, we have retired some copper, but where we have done it is very, very rare,’ said Bill Cheek, president of Wholesale Markets Group for CenturyLink. ‘We have network notifications we put out and there have been very few objections, and those that have come, we have been able to rectify those in short order.’

Cheek said that while he does not see a day where the company would retire all of its copper facilities, it wants ‘to have flexibility if we need to retire the copper because we don’t want to be mandated to maintain two networks since the economics don’t work.’

Even if traditional telephone switches are decommissioned, copper is still the technology of first resort for their IP-based replacements, fiber-to-the-home hype notwithstanding

To AT&T, the retirement of TDM services does not mean it is going to take out copper. Instead, the service provider will still require copper for some its key services such as its fiber to the node (FTTN)-based U-verse service, central office (CO)-based IP DSL service and Ethernet over Copper for businesses.

Both CenturyLink and AT&T have responded to Google’s challenge with fiber builds, but even then it’s still to be seen whether they’ll run glass all the way to subscribers’ homes if it looks like existing wires can handle some of the load.