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Phone giants reach fiber-optics deal

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Only 37,000 U.S. homes are directly fed by fiber lines, up from 10,000 a year earlier, according to Render Vanderslice & Associates, a market research firm.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (Reuters) -- The three largest U.S. local telephone companies Thursday said they agreed on a common set of technical standards to improve development of fiber-optic networks and speed the introduction of new services such as photo sharing and interactive gaming.

Since the Baby Bells agreed to use common technical specifications, equipment manufacturers can develop more gear more quickly and more cost-effectively.

The standards involve technology known as "fiber to the premises," or the extension of high-speed, high-capacity fiber optic network directly to business and homes, the companies said.

Replacing copper with fiber optics

The carriers involved include Verizon Communications Inc., SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., the three largest U.S. local telephone companies.

Currently long-distance networks use high-speed fiber, but local telephone networks still use traditional copper telephone wires that are ill-equipped to handle new generation services that require more bandwidth.

The lack of local high-speed capacity has been cited as a main factor for the slow development of more sophisticated Internet and software applications.

By having high-speed lines connect directly to offices and homes, customers will have nearly limitless bandwidth for new Internet, voice and video services. That would improve the evolution of interactive gaming, photo sharing, telecommuting, video conferencing or premises surveillance, the companies said.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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