Thursday, October 25, 2007

LUS-Alcatel Deal in the News


Both the Advertiser and the Advocate cover yesterday's announcement that Alcatel will provide the electronics for Lafayette's FTTH network. (I attended the press event and wrote up a piece yesterday.)

From the Advertiser:
Alcatel-Lucent was chosen from among six companies to provide the equipment - from the box on your house to the box atop your television set - that will bring Lafayette Utilities System's fiber technology into area homes.

From the Advocate:

The system that the Paris-based company will install will be able to provide all the bells and whistles just coming onto the market — and be flexible enough to provide new applications in the future, LUS Director Terry Huval said.

“We will have the ability and capacity to do things in Lafayette that most of America won’t have for years,” City-Parish President Joey Durel said.

and

For customers, the system Alcatel-Lucent will provide will be able to provide both the most basic of services — such as traditional phone or cable services — as well as services “previously unimaginable in Lafayette,” according to a LUS news release.

Those services include Internet Protocol Television, or IPTV, which sends television signals in the same general manner Internet signals are sent.

IPTV allows for a number of customizable services for end users, Alcatel-Lucent’s Jennifer McCain said.

Users can create their own “home page,” on their television, customizing lists of their favorite channels, doing some limited Internet surfing, gaming, sharing photos or even, someday, shopping — all over their television, McCain said...

Because the box at a customer’s home that delivers IPTV is like a small computer, when new applications become available the computer can be reprogrammed, McCain said.

The potential of the set top box is all but unlimited--it is, as has been remarked on in these pages before (more), a media-ready computer that has been locked down to serve limited, revenue-generating purposes. The boxes are all much more powerful than they are allowed to be. The more we can unlock their potenial as a computer the better it will be for the people of Lafayette.

Finally, what I think will eventually prove the most "feature" part of the system—and a feature we are proud to have first promoted on Lafayette Pro Fiber: 100 megs of intranet bandwidth. The digital divide committee also made a strong pitch for this concept in their "Bridging the
Digital Divide
" document. The appearance of this on the feature among the RFP proposals that Alcatel and others had to respond to is evidence that LUS does listen. Terry Huval is calling this peer-to-peer bandwidth and that points to the crucial feature that it is only available between members of the network.

The system will also be able to provide a special twist on Internet service that LUS has promised — nearly unlimited bandwidth inside the LUS network.

Internet customers, no matter which speed they sign up for to browse the Internet as a whole, will be given a full 100 Mbps when contacting another computer inside the LUS network.

Having such a unique capability in Lafayette could help drive innovation, Durel said.

Durel is right; it is hard to imagine what could be done with that sort of intranet bandwidth. But I'll try in a subsequent post. ;-)

The point here is that the train is leaving the station. Alcatel's techologies will shape the first iteration of the system and, at first glance, they and LUS' choices appear to be forward looking and leave a lot of room for growth in whatever direction the larger technological ecology takes. The inclusion of IPTV technology in the video category coupled with large internal bandwidth, and LUS' long-stated commitment to an open system ecology in the internet part of its offerings insure that Lafayette will have the tools, and more importantly, the open running room in which to create something truly different, ground-breaking, and valuable to the community.

Now all we have to do is our part: get down to work and invent the future. Have fun!

(As I wrote up this review I had to restrain myself from expanding too much on several points. Follow-up posts exploring some of the issues suggested by yesterday's press event and this morning's stories are slated to follow..)

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