Verizon is trying out 4G mobile technology, LTE, as a way of
offering its FiOS broadband services in remote areas, says
service operations president Virginia Ruesterholz. At the same
time she is rolling out fibre backhaul to support the demands
of the new LTE customers
Virginia Ruesterholz: FiOS has been game changing, but the
fibre network also connects thousands of cellsites for
Verizon is trying LTE to deliver its FiOS fibre optic service
to customers in remote areas. The US operator’s
mobile division, Verizon Wireless, will be launching LTE in 30 markets before the end of 2010
and a link between this 4G mobile technology and optical fibre
could enable it to win customers in remote areas.
The LTE trial of FiOS delivery is being conducted in two states
in the US, says Virginia Ruesterholz, president of Verizon
services operations. And FiOS, its
fibre-to-the-home project, is already available in 15.5
million homes, with 200,000 new video customers and 200,000 new
data customers signing up per quarter.
"We are trialling LTE [for FiOS service delivery] in some less
dense areas," says Ruesterholz. "Can that be an alternative [to
fibre delivery]?" The idea is to use LTE for the last mile from
a hub to the main network, instead of laying fibre down
According to Ruesterholz, trials of LTE in two markets have
delivered speeds of seven to 10 megabits a second.
"That’s what the trials are showing," she says.
"Seven megabits is a conservative number."
Ruesterholz is heading the operation to install FiOS and to
provide backhaul to cellsites to support the LTE rollout,
though other mobile operators’ needs will be
covered too. "The backhaul is part of the equation."
The company’s original roll-out plan, set at the
start of the programme, called for 18 million homes to be
passed "over the next several years". But Verizon is already
covering 60% of its local footprint and "over the past four or
five years the technology has improved", she says: hence the
Verizon’s FiOS "has been game-changing", she
notes: "It’s three networks converged into one."
Ruesterholz’s responsibilities in Verizon include
the traditional wireless network as well as FiOS plus the
company’s global IP network. "And I’m
responsible for the real estate, the supply chain, logistics,
the fleet and sustainability across Verizon," she says. "And
some finance operations."
With the LTE announcement by Verizon Wireless, 55% owned by the
Verizon group, one of her main concerns at the moment is
backhaul to the company’s cellsites.
"We’re putting in fibre to the cellsite. My
network team is building and operating that."
The company has planned the fibre to the wireless base stations
alongside the FiOS rollout whenever possible.
"We’ve extended our fibre to the cellsite where we
have FiOS to support what carriers need." The new LTE sites are
connected by ethernet: "It’s been an explosion."
That’s not a mistake when she refers to "what
carriers need": the company’s wholesale division
connects other operators’ cellsites as well as
those of Verizon Wireless — just as, in the local
telephone markets where it is dominant, AT&T connects
Verizon Wireless’s and other mobile
"Fibre provision is a real wholesale opportunity," says
Ruesterholz. "We are connecting thousands of cellsites this
year. We’ve supported fibre to the cell for
Verizon Wireless so they can launch 4G. It is critical to
Even where FiOS is not yet in operation
Ruesterholz’s team is installing fibre, carrying
data at up to 10 gigabits a second, to cellsites on behalf of
mobile customers and to corporate customers.
"We’re putting fibre in as a long-term investment
opportunity," she says, estimating the investment in backhaul
in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ruesterholz has been with Verizon and its predecessors for 26
years, having joined what was then New York Telephone as a
manager, not long after graduating with a degree in chemical
New York Telephone became Nynex, and that merged with
neighbouring Bell Atlantic in 1996 to become Verizon.
Ruesterholz became president of complex installation and
maintenance for network services but later headed all the
group’s wholesale services as president of Verizon
She headed the FiOS programme from the start, first as
president of Verizon Telecom, covering the consumer, general
business and US wholesale markets, and now in her present role.
Verizon’s approach to fast broadband to the home
is different from AT&T’s — though the
two are not direct rivals in the fixed market, as each operates
local telephone networks in different states, so nowhere can a
customer run a direct comparison between the two giants of the
The difference in approach is that AT&T delivers fibre to a
node in each neighbourhood, with DSL over traditional copper
taking the service from there into each customer’s
home. Verizon takes the fibre direct into the home.
"We want to roll out a broadband network that promotes our
reputation," says Ruesterholz. "Operationally we are hitting on
all cylinders, with installations and the quality of the
network. It’s everything you’d expect
from a fibre network."
Content for tablets
As fast as Verizon builds the network, demands are changing.
"More and more content is moving from the TV to the laptop to
the tablet. A year ago there were no tablets." Now, widgets
that Verizon is offering with FiOS allows customers to buy
online while they’re watching a big game. "The
whole ecosystem is about to offer some interesting things," she
Her team has to keep up with speed demands and technological
change. "We’re investing $17 billion a year in
total." The result of that is that FiOS is already available in
60% of Verizon’s territory. What about the other
40%? "We’re committed to passing 18 million homes
over the next several years," she notes: that means another 2.5
million homes to be passed. "That was the original business
plan. What happens next depends on the technology —
and over the four or five years since we started the technology
At the moment FiOS uses BPON technology — broadband
passive optical network — and Ruesterholz expects to
move to GPON, gigabit PON, with "more bandwidth, more
customers, and the costs go down".
But Verizon’s approach — using fibre all
the way to each customer’s home — means
costs go up when trying to connect homes in low-density areas
of the US. That’s why she is looking at the
possibilities of using LTE simply as a last-mile alternative to
fibre in rural areas.
"We are trialling LTE in some less dense areas," confirms
Ruesterholz. "Can that be an alternative?" There are no
confirmed results yet, though she says first indications are
One of Ruesterholz’s other concerns is
Verizon’s sustainability policy. "We are looking
at our energy footprint, and tackling it in several ways." One
is to replace network equipment with more energy-efficient
"But we are also buying 1,800 green vehicles by the end of
2010, that are hybrid vehicles or use compressed natural gas,
depending on the public infrastructure. We’re
trying both." It’s a start, but is still less than
5% of Verizon’s total fleet of 40,000. Natural gas
"has less of a CO2 footprint that gasoline and
it’s US-sourced so we cut out the
Behind it all is "a balance of corporate responsibility and a
commitment to the community", she says, "as well as doing
things that are economically good".
One of the challenges of doing that at the same time as rolling
out networks such as FiOS is that the new services need more
data centres to deliver the content. Ruesterholz accepts that,
but notes: "You have that growth but you can grow more
efficiently. And FiOS uses more efficient equipment."
For example, Verizon has just introduced what she calls "a
green set-top box" for FiOS customers, made by Motorola. Energy
consumption is lower than with previous models and the box
itself is made of a certain percentage of recycled materials.
It will be installed in customers’ homes whenever
they upgrade from standard definition TV services to high
Motorola is just one of the vendors supplying FiOS: there are
also set-tops from Cisco and equipment from Ciena, Fujitsu and
Given her responsibilities for the FiOS rollout and the LTE
backhaul infrastructure — the two anchors of
Verizon’s business — does Ruesterholz
have sleepless nights. "The size and scope of the network and
the amount of traffic means we all think about the
reliability," she says.
The fibre network is built with a level of redundancy "and this
gives us a lot of relief — it’s not the
same as using the old telephone line", she adds. Indeed: there
is almost nothing in common between FiOS and LTE and those old
networks — and this is just the start.
GTB interview with Verizon CTO Dick Lynch here
Alcatel-Lucent contract with Verizon Wireless