The vague announcement raised the question of whether Verizon is simply trying to show its competitive value against Google and AT&T, which have both announced fiber Internet services in a number of cities.
"I think Verizon is trying to play catch up to the others without saying it that way," said independent analyst Jeff Kagan. "The only question I still have is will Verizon be a real competitor or is this mostly just talk to cover their butts in the rapidly changing marketplace"
What Verizon did disclose in a news release was that it will be modernizing undisclosed portions of its so-called 100G (for 100 Gbps) metro optical network using packet-optimized networking gear from Ciena and Cisco. Testing and deployment of the Ciena 6500 optical switch and Cisco's Network Covergence System will happen this year, with plans to go live in 2016. /
"We are not announcing specific geographies at this time," Verizon spokeswoman Lynn Staggs said in an email. She said the new equipment is not directly related to fiber connections to the premises of homes or businesses. By comparison, both Google Fiber and AT&T GigaPower are designed with 1 Gbps connections to homes, schools and businesses in mind.
Staggs said Verizon is upgrading connectivity between central Verizon offices and the backbone network. On top of that service, there is generally an "access" network for the last mile to connect the customer and the metro network, she added.
No matter how Verizon describes the ultimate purpose of its metro network, it is clear to analysts and others that Verizon's metro upgrades could be used to prepare for last-mile fiber connections to businesses, schools and even homes to take on Google and AT&T directly. "Deploying a new coherent, optimized and highly scalable metro network means Verizon stays ahead of the growth trajectory while providing an even more robust network infrastructure for future demand," said Lee Hicks, vice president of Verizon network planning, in a statement.
Google already has deployed fiber with an undisclosed number of subscribers in the Kansas City area on both sides of the Kansas and Missouri borders, as well as Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas. In January, Google announced the service was coming to 18 cities in four metro areas: Atlanta, Nashville and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. In early March, Google blogged that it had provided small business fiber in Provo and expanded its business services in the Kansas City areas.
AT&T launched its GigaPower service in parts of the Kansas City metro area in February and has said it already has "hundreds of thousands of consumers and small businesses" using GigaPower in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem. It also previously announced plans to serve Atlanta, Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C., Chicago, Cupertino, Calif., Houston, Jacksonville, Fla., Miami, Nashville, St. Louis and San Antonio. In all, the company is considering expanding the all-fiber network to 100 cities across 25 markets.
AT&T is also in the process of merging with DirecTV, which will expand AT&T's GigaPower network to 2 million customer locations above those already announced by AT&T. That merger was originally expected to close in May, but there have been delays.
Verizon first began field trials of its 100G optical technology in 2007. As of January, it had 32,000 miles of 100G deployed in the U.S. in its backbone and metro areas, with another 8,500 miles in Europe and 11,600 terrestrial and submarine miles connecting Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Kagan said 100G will eventually be used to provide capacity for video and wireless solutions. "I was wondering when Verizon was going to jump into this new growth space [served by Google, AT&T, CenturyLink and C Spire] and if this is their move, then I hope Verizon and their competitors all do strong business going forward."