Fiber to the curb/cabinet (FTTC) is a telecommunications system based on fiber-optic cables run to a platform that serves several customers. Each of these customers has a connection to this platform via coaxial cable or twisted pair. The "curb" is an abstraction and can just as easily mean a pole-mounted device or communications closet or shed. Typically any system terminating fiber within 1,000 ft (300 m) of the customer premises equipment would be described as FTTC.
Fiber to the node or neighborhood (FTTN), sometimes identified with and sometimes distinguished from fiber to the cabinet (FTTC), is a telecommunication architecture based on fiber-optic cables run to a cabinet serving a neighborhood. Customers typically connect to this cabinet using traditional coaxial cable or twisted pair wiring. The area served by the cabinet is usually less than one mile in radius and can contain several hundred customers. (If the cabinet serves an area of less than 1,000 ft (300 m) in radius, the architecture is typically called FTTC/FTTK.)
FTTN allows delivery of broadband services such as high-speed internet. High-speed communications protocols such as broadband cable access (typically DOCSIS) or some form of digital subscriber line (DSL) are used between the cabinet and the customers. Data rates vary according to the exact protocol used and according to how close the customer is to the cabinet.
Unlike FTTP, FTTN often uses existing coaxial or twisted-pair infrastructure to provide last mile service and is thus less costly to deploy. In the long term, however, its bandwidth potential is limited relative to implementations that bring the fiber still closer to the subscriber.
A variant of this technique for cable television providers is used in a hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) system. It is sometimes given the acronym FTTLA (fiber-to-the-last-amplifier) when it replaces analog amplifiers up to the last one before the customer (or neighborhood of customers).
FTTC allows delivery of broadband services such as high-speed internet. Usually, existing wire is used with communications protocols such as broadband cable access (typically DOCSIS) or some form of DSL connecting the curb/cabinet and the customers. In these protocols, the data rates vary according to the exact protocol used and according to how close the customer is to the cabinet.
Where it is feasible to run new cable, both fiber and copper ethernet are capable of connecting the "curb" with a full 100Mbit/s or 1Gbit/s connection. Even using relatively cheap outdoor category 5 copper over thousands of feet, all ethernet protocols including power over Ethernet (PoE) are supported. Most fixed wireless technologies rely on PoE, including Motorola Canopy, which has low-power radios capable of running on a 12VDC power supply fed over several hundred feet of cable.
Power line networking deployments also rely on FTTC. Using the IEEE P1901 protocol (or its predecessor HomePlug AV) existing electric service cables move up to 1Gbit/s from the curb/pole/cabinet into every AC electrical outlet in the home—coverage equivalent to a robust Wi-Fi implementation, with the added advantage of a single cable for power and data.
By avoiding new cable and its cost and liabilities, FTTC costs less to deploy. However, it also has historically had lower bandwidth potential than FTTP. In practice, the relative advantage of fiber depends on the bandwidth available for backhaul, usage-based billing restrictions that prevent full use of last-mile capabilities, and customer premises equipment and maintenance restrictions, and the cost of running fiber that can vary widely with geography and building type.
In the United States and Canada, the largest deployment of FTTC was carried out by BellSouth Telecommunications. With the acquisition of BellSouth by AT&T, deployment of FTTC will end. Future deployments will be based on either FTTN or FTTP. Existing FTTC plant may be removed and replaced with FTTP. Verizon, meanwhile, announced in March 2010 they were winding down Verizon FiOS expansion, concentrating on completing their network in areas that already had FiOS franchises but were not deploying to new areas, suggesting that FTTH was uneconomic beyond these areas.
Verizon also announced (at CES 2010) its entry into the smart home and power utility data management arenas, indicating it was considering using P1901-based FTTC or some other existing-wire approach to reach into homes, and access additional revenues from the secure AES-128 bandwidth required for advanced metering infrastructure. However, the largest 1Gbit/s deployment in the United States, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, despite being conducted by power utility EPB, was FTTH rather than FTTC, reaching every subscriber in a 600-square-mile area. Monthly pricing of $350 reflected this generally high cost of deployment. However, Chattanooga EPB has reduced the monthly pricing to $70/month.
Historically, both telephone and cable companies avoided hybrid networks using several different modes of transport from their point of presence into customer premises. The increased competitive cost pressure, availability of three different existing wire solutions, smart grid deployment requirements (as in Chattanooga), and better hybrid networking tools (with major vendors like Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm Atheros, and Wi-Fi solutions for edge networks, IEEE 1905 and IEEE 802.21 protocol efforts and SNMP improvements) all make FTTC deployments more likely in areas uneconomic to serve with FTTP/FTTH. In effect FTTC serves as a halfway measure between fixed wireless and FTTH, with special advantages for smart appliances and electric vehicles that rely on PLC use already.