back to article Verizon: fibre is MUCH cheaper than copper, we're going all-FTTP

Verizon has put the latest numbers on its fibre-versus-copper experience, and found that glass beats metal on all counts. Without giving a timeframe, the company has told a conference in Orlando that its experience across seven central offices (CO, or for Australians, telephone exchanges) areas is so compelling it's going to …

  1. x 7

    they missed the real saving: gypsies don't steal fibre cables, or at least the bright ones don't.

    In some parts of the UK phone cables are a good part of a scrap metal dealers trade

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm reminded of a comment (article?) here some years back about some company replacing a copper run due to gypsies, only to have the gypsies dig up the fibre anyway. some amusing graffiti notes between the two parties IIRC.

    2. ScottME
      Thumb Up

      Perhaps this story is really telling us that the telcos have learned from the pikeys - and the real motivation for switching to fibre is the profit to be made on all the copper they'll be ripping out?

      1. x 7

        well.....someone did a back-of-an-envelope calculation last year and reckoned that BTs copper had more value than the BT groups entire share value. It would be interesting to see if the same applies to Verizon.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Verizon is in the US, where metal theft is an equal-opportunity crime pursued by folks of every race and ethnicity.

      My painter/plasterer wanted to paint my aluminum1 gutters2 with a faux-copper finish; he did his that way, using a paint that contains powdered copper and an acid wash to immediately give it a patina. I turned him down, since I really don't want to come home from vacation to find some idiot's ripped the gutters off my house thinking they really were (solid) copper.

      Similarly, the metal roof installers around here still advertise copper panel as an option. Looks beautiful, but you just know someone will be trying to pry it off in the middle of the night.

      When my brother bought his house, on the day between closing and moving in, someone smashed a basement window and cut out all the exposed copper pipes. Flooded the basement in the process, of course.

      Had a lot of catalytic-converter thefts around these parts, too, until the legislature tightened reporting requirements for scrap-metal dealers and made it harder to sell the converters to them.

      1"Aluminium", for those hailing from surplus-vowel districts.

      2"Eavestroughs and downspouts", for those hailing from ... wherever those terms are more popular.

  2. Hazmoid

    Get the politics out of our NBN

    Yet more proof that relying on an aging copper network is a recipe for failure.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Get the politics out of our NBN

      >Yet more proof that relying on an aging copper network is a recipe for failure.

      Failure for whom? Doesn't Telstra get NBN cash either way? Then they'll get more cash for the eventual fibre upgrade, and in the meantime they get to segment the market charging over-the-top prices for fibre, getting customers to pay for fibre installations instead of them being standard.

      Seems like a win-win-win.

      Unless you aren't Telstra.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Get the politics out of our NBN

      The issue being that it is already an asset - it's only the maintenance costs which need to be considered - unless the scrap value of the copper is comparable with the fibre rollout cost (which is unlikely).

      Sweating assets - it's what monopolies are good at...

      1. Jasonk

        Re: Get the politics out of our NBN

        apparently there is an article about BT copper scrap value it twice as much as the company is worth

        But then explains from the Strategic review that MTM and FTTP with cost the same by 2027.

        Why have a Holden when you can have a rusted out Combi for the same price.

  3. thomas k.

    I'm confused

    I thought Verizon had stopped it's fiber build out years ago in order to push people into using more expensive cellular wireless. Are they now saying they're going to start building again, that once they've sold off their copper (as they've announced) they'll replace it with fiber?

    Every Verizon employee I've badgered over the years has maintained that Verizon will never bring fiber to my city.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm confused

      I think it's safer to say there will be no specific timetable for it. Some areas will be more useful to convert right away, others not until an issue brings up the maintenance costs to the point it's cheaper and/or easier to tear things up.

    2. James Haley 2
      WTF?

      Re: I'm confused

      I'm confused as well.

      Why is Verizon selling their existing FiOS properties?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm confused

        That may have been to avoid anti-competition concerns and to help cover the costs of paying for a recent spectrum auction.

  4. Spaceman Spiff

    What dren!

    Wasn't that the point of Verizon's FIOS project? To eliminate copper (and the need to power the lines from big banks of batteries)? I got FIOS when it was first rolled out in the Boston area over 10 years ago, and it was great! Internet? Just plug your router into the ethernet plug in the wall. The phone line had its own UPS to handle times when there was a power brownout or blackout.

    Then, they stopped deploying it - probably due to the capital costs. Now they want to do it again? One thing about Verizon is that like the weather (if you don't like it, wait 5 minutes), with Verizon if you don't like what they are doing, just wait 5 minutes. They will change their minds!

    1. beep54
      Happy

      Re: What dren!

      I thought it was more like: if you like it, Just wait 5 minutes....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll be very surprised if they manage to put fibre to my house in rural Nantucket any time soon and just give us a phone line. We use Comcast for cable and broadband so they're not going to get more money out of us with fibre. Plus when I last called the girl I spoke to laughed when I asked if they planned to upgrade Nantucket to fibre.

  6. Kye Macdonald

    Seriously how can you compare a rebuild of a completely destroyed exchange that was 13!!! stories tall in a high density city with digging up and replacing working copper infrastructure running through suburban areas to an exchange that is the size of a small single story house????

    If you are building a new development you lay fibre. That is a no brainer. But digging up a sunk asset to replace it with a new asset would require the maintenance costs to be orders of magnitudes lower for the cost to work out. If it was a case of pay off in 5 years and clear profit after that all the telcos would have been ripping out the copper themselves.

    1. Jasonk

      Well according to a Melbourne uni for Turnbull's FTTN pre election plan would require 2 - 3 power stations to run it. Which also explains why from the SR for the NBN that by 2027 there is only a $1B difference between FTTP with CAPEX+OPEX vs MTM with CAPEX + OPEX.

      Or that his claim they could reuse 50% of FTTN for Fiber be the average cost of FOD is more than the new revised cost of FTTP at $4300 which doesnt make sense.

      Or a U.S. Military area upgrading to all Fiber which payed for it self with the saving on the power requirement alone from the old copper network.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Unless it's not so simple and it's a matter of "something breaking" being the turning point. Aging infrastructure tends to have one thing going against it: rising maintenance costs (and let's face it, POTS infrastructure tends to be old). Eventually you reach the point where the continual maintenance costs approach the offset point: the cost of starting fresh which has the benefit of shoving the maintenance costs back down again, giving you savings over time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "rising maintenance costs (and let's face it, POTS infrastructure tends to be old)."

        It's not really POTS though. It's a passive copper network with a variety of services running over it. I think most telcos are seeing copper networks increase in reliability as closures around joints become better and more longlasting.

        The bigger issue I think is that unless you replace all of it you end up with the costs of two networks. I've seen mention of FTTP costing in the region of £3000 a premises in the UK - multiplied by 20 million premises that gets you to a cost of £60Bn. That's a huge sum, and you've got to convince investors to lend you the money, against a background of continued decline in the prices for telecoms services and a regulatory requirement to make whatever you do available to your competitors.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          But as the copper network shrinks you need less and less of the associated infrastructure, lowering the continual costs for them over time. Plus, with an eye to removal, you don't need to make things to fixed.

          As for the costs, that's why you do it gradually, over time. $60B in one chunk would be a hard pill for someone like Verizon to swallow, but note that FiOS is already in numerous places meaning they're already set and the upgrade cost for them is $0. The rest you put on a priority list based on demand, repair/replace ratios, and so on. Then you just start going down the list, spending say $50M there, then maybe $100M a few months later. This not only gives you flexibility in case something more urgent appears like one of your old exchanges is destroyed in a disaster, but it's easier for the investors to swallow.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: they're already set and the upgrade cost for them is $0.

            Again, that sounds good on paper, but observed behavior doesn't reflect that. My parents have FIOS available to them for phone and internet, but not tv. They'd have no cable infrastructure costs associated with adding tv to the service. Initially my dad was told the service was coming 6 months down the road. We're going on 6 years now, every 6 months or so he calls and the answer is the same - they've bundled with Direct TV (which is what he has separately) and won't be putting it on the fiber cable. While granting the upgrade cost is not exactly zero over all infrastructure, it's not really in your case either. You're tearing something out and replacing it.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: POTS infrastructure tends to be old

        That's all well and good from an accounting standpoint, except the law requires telcoms to provide POTS service. And while they might try to avoid FCC common carrier rules for internet, they are still common carriers for purposes of that law.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    can Malcolm change his mind now?

    I'd forgive him. If it isn't too late to change policy.

  8. earl grey
    Mushroom

    There's only one reason to tear out copper

    So they can get out of requirements for emergency phone services and try to force everyone to limited time on fibre or no access at all on cellular.

    don't trust them as far as i can throw my phone pole.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's only one reason to tear out copper

      Last I checked, emergency phone services are mandatory for ALL telephone lines regardless of their nature so long as they connect to the standard telephone network. That applies for VoIP (if they connect via PSTN), any other landline-based (cable, fiber, etc.) phones (as standard issue, too), even cell phones (I was required to register my cell phone's home address to E911, plus cell providers are required to post location triangulation to the 911 center when they're called).

      1. leexgx

        Re: There's only one reason to tear out copper

        but unless you know fiber does not have Power , with PSTN networks the phone exchange providers the power and typically have a generator on larger phone exchanges (or batteries on smaller exchanges to last about 2 days as tis not that hard to keep the phone PSTN network active, but they only have to keep it live for 12 hours by law i think but most norm over sized)

        with FTTP VoIP your reliant on the 8-16 hour UPS to keep the Fiber working for the phone (that's standby time not active) so most are dead by the time they need to use it and thats assuming the fiber node has not Lost power (most lack backup power at FTTC nodes for FTTP to the house)

        some Primarily mobile masts have a backup generator or backup batteries

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: There's only one reason to tear out copper

          "with FTTP VoIP your reliant on the 8-16 hour UPS to keep the Fiber working for the phone"

          I would think that the time you need to use the phone after a power failure is immediately after the event. The backup battery is intended to handle temporary outages of the old "line fell" or "rat chewed the wires": maybe worse-case a blown transformer. I know one of the first things I do is call the power company to either report the problem or learn how long it'll probably take to get back on. If I'm going to call anyone, it's going to be right after. Beyond this and you're probably going into disaster territory. Based on experience (I live in a hurricane zone), I can say that if your power isn't back on (or due back) within 12 hours, there are other problems. If you can't even REACH the power company (because the phone is cut off upstream), you might as well hunker down; you're in for a wait, in which case the phone isn't going to be of much use to you anyway. In any event, if an emergency arises during such a disaster (like a flooding that can warrant evacuation), the order will likely come from a truck in the street rather than the phone.

          "some Primarily mobile masts have a backup generator or backup batteries"

          SOME, but not many. So the cell phone isn't likely to be of much help in a major outage, either, unless you're willing to roam to find a working tower.

  9. x 7

    Aluminium cable?

    How much aluminium cable is there in the system in the USA? In the UK, BT tried experimenting with aluminium in the 1970's and 1980's partly on grounds of cost, but also weight: overhead suspended cables are lighter and need less support. Some parts of the UK, even in major towns have crippled broadband as a result (oxygen in the aluminium screws the data speed), and its one of the reasons for who gets upgrade priority.

    The catch of course is that theres much less money to be made on reclaiming Al rather than Cu, so much less of a financial inducement to upgrade

    Did the USA go down that route?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Aluminium cable?

      Aluminum tends to be reserved for power cabling. I think one of the issues is the signal-to-weight ratio. Aluminum has more resistance than copper (by about 1/3), but for high-voltage applications the losses are acceptable vis-a-vis the cost of the metal since copper's three times as heavy. Copper snakes more easily so is better for low-voltage applications where you may have to go through narrow conduits. It's also useful in heat-sensitive applications since aluminum's increased resistance means more heat to dissipate. In the open air, where neither of these typically apply, aluminum wins out.

    2. leexgx

      Re: Aluminium cable?

      Aluminum cabling i think was due to shortages in copper cable the only thing you can do to get BT to change it is damage it your self so they have to replace all of it (most of the time they still Cheap out and only replace the section that is broken not the whole length

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