Bezeq joins fiber-optic cable fray

Bezeq joins fiber-optic cable fray

Israel’s phone company becomes the latest to promise fast connections with surfing speeds of a gigabit per second

Bezeq workers installing fiber optic cables. (Courtesy)
Bezeq workers installing fiber optic cables. (Courtesy)

Israel’s phone company, Bezeq, is joining the race to construct fiber-optic networks linking homes and offices directly to fast Internet service, increasing Internet speed by a factor of more than ten.

Bezeq launched its FTTH/B — Fiber to the Home/Building — effort this month. The Israel Electric Company and HOT, a cable service provider, have already announced construction of similar networks.

Customers with fiber-optic connections will be able to surf the Internet at an average download speed of up to 1,000 mbps (megabits per per second). Currently, Bezeq’s NGN service offers customers in most parts of the country only up to 30 mbps, with 20 mbps the limit in many areas. In limited areas, customers can access speeds of up to 100 mpbs.

Bezeq’s NGN network, which now extends throughout the country, uses a combination of fast Internet connection technologies, including fiber connections to within several hundred meters of many buildings, to achieve the network’s relatively high speeds. The new project will extend that fiber connection all the way to each building and home, replacing the existing copper wire with fast fiber wire.

Fiber cables, usually made of glass or plastic, have a wider bandwidth than copper wires, and also have the ability to conduct signals at much higher speeds and to deliver data signals without fading.

That makes it ideal for the video content that entertainment providers would like to stream over the Internet. The higher bandwidths allow for the smoother streaming of video, ensuring that there are none of the “bumps” or “pauses” that  generally occur at lower connection speeds.

Bezeq has already set up several test sites with FTTH connections, and early this month the company announced that it was ready to expand to the rest of the country. The first to benefit from the fast connections will be apartment block dwellers, with the objective of hooking up hundreds of thousands of Fiber NGN customers throughout 2013. The company said it would also install fiber-optic networks for business parks and industrial zones.

Last year, the Israel Electric Company received permission from the Communication Ministry to set up a fiber-optic network that would be installed alongside existing electric wiring. Earlier this year, the IEC set up a subsidiary to manage installation of the system, 49% of which will be owned by the company. Several Israeli and European telecommunications companies are competing in a bid for the rest.

Not to be outdone, cable company HOT announced to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange last year that it, too, would upgrade its existing network, allowing customers to connect to the Internet via fiber-optic connections. The company, it said in a statement, will spend NIS 555 million ($145 million) on the project, giving the company the ability to offer customers “the full range of advanced services.”

While several issues are still open — the IEC has yet to find a partner, and HOT has not made any follow-up announcements since its original notification to the TASE in April 2011 — three fiber-optic networks would place Israel as one of the world’s most advanced countries in Internet connectivity. Currently, South Korea is the world leader in fiber-optic connectivity, with some 60% of all telecom customers using the fast connections.

The Asia-Pacific region is the world’s best-connected, with nearly 75% of the world’s FTTH subscribers coming from South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. It is this “club” Israel is set to join as FTTH service rolls out here, said Bezeq CEO Avi Gabay.

Bezeq has invested “about a billion shekels annually” in upgrading the communication infrastructure in Israel, he said.

“We have a clear technology advantage, and we are committed to keeping that advantage in the future. The Fiber NGN project will guarantee that Bezeq, and Israel, lead in this important area for the foreseeable future,” Gabay said.

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