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By Meghan Fuller Hanna

I have a confession to make: I've never gotten the whole video game thing. I never played Pacman or Donkey Kong as a kid. I never waited with bated breath on Christmas morning, as so many of my friends did, to see if Santa had left an Atari system under the tree. Even today, I don't usually have anything to add when friends and co-workers wax poetic about this new game or that new game . . . and I'm starting to wonder if there's something wrong with me.

So popular is Nintendo's new Wii gaming system, for example, that Japan's NTT recently announced a deal with the company to co-promote the Wii and its FTTH service.

Nintendo and NTT say they will jointly operate call centers to provide support for those connecting to the Internet via their Wii console, and NTT is offering a price break on start-up packages for Wii users.

It's easy to see how both companies might benefit from the deal. Later this year, Nintendo plans to offer a new service, WiiWare, which will enable Wii users to purchase new games via the Internet--a feature that presumably requires the kind of bandwidth that only fiber can deliver. And NTT, which hopes to pass 20 million subscribers by 2011, likely realized the chance to market its FTTH service to all those Wii fanatics was too good to pass up.

The crazy thing is it just might work. If Verizon offered such a deal here, my brother-in-law absolutely would be the first to sign up. He and my sister have a Wii console (I think they had to give up their firstborn to get it), not to mention an Xbox 360 and PlayStation2.

On a recent visit to their house, my brother-in-law showed off his most recent purchase: A game called "Rock Band" that today runs on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation2, though a Wii version is expected at some point in the future. It's sort of like next-generation karaoke, complete with color-coded instruments that match patterns on the TV screen. You just follow the pattern, press the corresponding buttons on the guitar or the drum set, and voila! You're a rock star. Through an Internet connection, you can even play with band mates around the world, and new songs are available for download every week.

Of course, we had to try it. In our little band, my brother-in-law cut loose on the drums, my husband jammed on lead guitar, and my sister tackled base guitar. Which left me--whose only musical ability is turning the dial on my stereo to the "on" position--to wow the virtual crowd on lead vocals.

I have to admit, it was fun. Actually, it was a lot of fun, and I can sort of see how people might get addicted to it.

That said, Lightwave's readers are forever asking me which application I think will serve as THE tipping point for FTTH in North America. Do I really think it's the Wii or the Xbox 360 or games like "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero"? With all due respect to my brother-in-law and other virtual rockers, probably not.

But I do think the NTT/Nintendo partnership underscores the fact that there likely will not be one "killer app." In reality, an amalgam of applications will spur the further penetration of FTTH, and we shouldn't discount any of them (no matter how silly we may feel singing The Police's "Roxanne" into a plastic microphone. For the record, it was like an American Idol tryout, with my husband playing the role of Simon Cowell. Every once in a while, he still busts out a good-natured "Roxannnnnne!" to remind me of my less-than-Grammy-Award-winning performance.)

The bottom line is this: I applaud NTT for taking advantage of the Wii's popularity to promote its FTTH service, for recognizing that any chance it gets to introduce new subscribers to the benefits of fiber is a good one. And I think it's only a matter of time before other carriers follow suit.

[Thank you to Bill St. Arnaud for alerting his mailing list to this announcement. If you aren't already a regular reader of his various blogs, they are worth a look:]

Blogger John Keller said...
Meghan, and you thought that computers were invented for crunching numbers and optical fiber was developed for making telephone calls! Now we finally understand what is the ultimate application for computers and fiber optics -- games. Like they said in 'Field of Dreams,' "If you build it, they will come." Visit the Mil & Aero Blog at

John Keller
Friday, January 11, 2008 2:48:00 PM EST  

Blogger Light Wave Blog said...
A hand for John Keller, editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics, ladies and gentlemen. Sure, his comment is a blatant attempt to draw attention to his blog, but Meghan and I give our coworker credit for running a good information resource that you should check out if you're interested in the electronic and optical aspects of things that go boom or zoom.
Friday, January 11, 2008 3:01:00 PM EST  

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The Lightwave editorial staff uses The Lightwave Blog to share their thoughts on optical communications and whatever else might be the current topic of conversation from cubicle to cubicle. Feel free to add your own opinions.

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave, which makes him responsible for the editorial aspects of the Lightwave franchise. A technology journalist since 1982, he once had his job duties described as "gets paid to tick off advertisers ".

Meghan Fuller is senior editor of Lightwave. She has degrees from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, and the University of Delaware and is a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation.