Bell Canada has revealed that its ongoing project to expand the reach of high speed fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) infrastructure is running behind schedule. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, in 2004 Bell began an FTTN rollout programme in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, augmented with high density VDSL technology, and had extended the FTTN network to 3,612 neighbourhood nodes by the end of December 2006, covering over a million homes. In the third quarter of 2006 Bell launched Sympatico Optimax, a high speed service based on ADSL2+/fibre-optic technology, for customers in select parts of Montreal and Toronto. It originally planned to build an FTTN network capable of serving 4.3 million homes by the end of 2008. But in a recent regulatory filing, BCE said it had spent just CAD400 million (USD347 million) of an earmarked CAD1.2 billion to reach a third of the nodes. The project is now scheduled for completion in early 2011. The delay reflects the Montreal-based firm’s decision to invest in projects that are more likely to produce more revenue sooner, according to spokesman Mark Langton. Priorities include upgrading its wireless network, improving customer service, and expanding its retail presence, he said. ‘We deploy capital where it best serves the interest of the business,’ Mr Langton explained. He added that the FTTN network is expected to cover around two million households by the end of this year.
The FTTN rollout is designed to support the widespread launch of IPTV. GlobalComms notes that in 2004 Bell started offering digital TV via VDSL lines to residents of condominiums in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, under the name ‘ExpressVu TV for condos’, but the service is still restricted to selected apartment complexes. Bell previously said it aimed to make IPTV over ADSL available to more than four million households in Ontario and Quebec by the end of 2008, by launching a mass market broadband TV service alongside its ExpressVu packages. Extensive testing of an IPTV platform has been carried out in partnership with Microsoft, but a full commercial launch has apparently been delayed by a wait for the development of a key piece of equipment and a new version of Microsoft’s software. Canada’s second largest wireline provider TELUS Communications already offers mass-market residential IPTV services.