Death of Verizon copper greatly exaggerated

According to a Bloomberg News report, Verizon is preparing to retire its ”traditional phone” lines and move to VoIP within the next seven years.  USTelecom’s daily news digest took it even farther, headlining its reference to the Bloomberg report by saying Verizon was “eyeing the end of an era for its copper phone lines.”

Whoa, Nelly. That seemed a little preposterous for me. As it turns out, some confusion and some exaggeration seem to be at work here.  The story was based on an interview with Verizon CMO John Stratton, conducted at CES, but the conclusions are a little off base.

According to Eric Rabe, senior vice president of media relations for Verizon, and the go-to guy for all tough questions, Verizon has no plans to phase out its copper network, and no definitive plans for moving everyone to VoIP, although Verizon will begin moving its FiOS voice customers to a VoIP offering, probably very soon.

“You will see us move to VoIP for our fiber customers fairly near term — 09-ish, probably first half,” Rabe said, adding that this isn’t a definitive time table. “That will let us deliver some additional services.”

Having voice, data and video as part of the same IP-based service clearly facilitates convergence offferings.

As for the copper network, when Verizon started building its FiOS fiber-to-the-home network, it would remove the copper drop to each home it connected. Some people objected, Rabe said, so that practice was stopped. Now, aerial fiber lines are lashed to the existing copper lines and underground copper equipment is only removed if necessary for space reasons, Rabe said. While ultimately Verizon would love to operate only its fiber network, that won’t be practical for many years to come, Rabe said.

Verizon does have a VoIP service, called VoiceWing, which Rabe said has a small customer base and isn’t something Verizon actively markets.

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