Homestead, Fla., made news on Aug. 24, 1992, as the community hardest hit by Hurricane Andrew. Just south of Miami, its residents certainly hope to stay out of the spotlight this week, as Frances hits.
Some IP infrastructure players, however, would like to direct our attention precisely there, because this city of 32,000 directed a good chunk of its Andrew recovery money to the infrastructure that supports a novel kind of triple-play IP service. This is to be telephone, video and data service over really broad broadband—100M-bps optical fiber–to the home.
Homestead is not the first U.S. city to get into the VOIP (voice over IP) business. Several have taken advantage of their rights to dig up their own streets and lay down fiber, becoming CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers). Homesteads case, however, is groundbreaking on several different levels, and bears watching.
In the first place, Hurricane Andrew presented Homestead with the worst kind of "greenfield" opportunity, simply because it destroyed 80 percent of the town. It destroyed 5,000 homes completely, demolished its Air Force base, and destroyed or damaged 85,000 businesses.
Where no legacy wiring exists, IPs cost of deployment compares more favorably with traditional copper. And so, among the up to 15,000 homes that are due to go up in Homestead by 2010, Ethernet-carrying fiber-optic cable is being built right in, at a cost of roughly $1,000 per home. This will support a triple-play service of flat-fee IP voice, hundreds of channels of IP-TV and HD-TV, movies-on-demand, videoconferencing, and high-speed data. The first homes are due to deploy by years end.
The service is integrated with television in a way Ive not seen before: In the home, via set-top box and remote control, it will allow subscribers to control their phones and calling features through the TV screen. In practical terms, this means that if your mother-in-law calls during "The West Wing," you will see her caller ID from a picture-within-a picture, if you like, and you will be able to send her to voice mail from the comfort of your couch-potato seat.