Qwest Plots Big Fiber Procurement

Word comes from Light Reading that Qwest, the only remaining Baby Bell without a video strategy, has issued an RFP for a major infrastructure upgrade that will involve integration of voice, video and data over a fiber optic-based network. Whether this will be a fiber-to-the-home initiative like Verizon’s FiOS, a hybrid next generation DSL architecture similar to AT&T’s IPTV, or something completely different, remains unknown. Qwest is said to be considering all options. Light Reading writes,

In a portion of the RFP document, Qwest admits it “continues to be challenged to develop innovative, more cost effective solutions to meet ever changing market needs. Within the access environment, the ability to leverage the embedded base of copper and fiber plant to provide voice, data, and video services is critical.”

By all measures, Qwest is late with it video strategy, a situation attributable to its financial scandals in the early part of the decade and the legacy debt it needed to clear. As a result, a number of cities in Qwest’s 14-state region, which stretches from Washington State and Oregon to Iowa and Minnesota, and south to include Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, have sunk millions of taxpayer dollars into municipal fiber systems, fearing that it would be years before Qwest delivered. These cities include Tacoma, Wash.; Ashland, Ore.; and Provo, Utah, all of which have experienced their own financial problems to one degree or another. Now they stand to face more “triple play” competition in the next 12 to 24 months. And of the three remaining Baby Bells, Qwest by far operates in the states with the smallest population densities. It will still be at least a year before Qwest gets service rolling over its next-generation network, but it will be interesting to see where the company deploys first. Either way, the supposition that the broadband market “has failed” in medium and small markets is about to be put to the test.