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Fixing a One-Way Relationship with Fiber: The Asymmetry Problem


FTTH operators that address underserved areas, usually rural towns or villages, are experiencing much better take-up rates than the major operators with their urban-focused roll outs.

In Europe, it’s a different story. While Europe has the highest broadband penetration in the world, the region has the lowest percentage of homes using FTTH connections. In fact, Europe had just 8.9 million FTTH subscribers at the end of 2012, even though it is home to twice as many people as the whole of North America. The lack of FTTH in Europe isn’t about lack of demand, though; it’s about lack of availability. Operators in Europe have heavily and very successfully invested in copper-based broadband services such as DSL and cable-television networks. They invested more in these earlier technologies than operators in most other parts of the world, and many of them are naturally reluctant to make large-scale investments to upgrade their networks a second, or even third, time.

Even within Europe, however, there is a demand for FTTH services in individual countries where the market is more mature, or the incumbent is less invested in older technologies. Thanks to a national roll-out by the incumbent operator TEO, Lithuania has the highest penetration of FTTH networks in Europe, with 100 per cent coverage and more than 30 per cent of homes actually subscribing. In the Czech Republic, 54.9 per cent of homes subscribe to FTTH services where they are available (although coverage is lower). Take-up rates are also high in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, at 51.9 per cent, 48.4 per cent, and 41.7 per cent respectively.

Within areas that are poorly served by existing broadband, there may be considerable pent-up demand. FTTH operators that address underserved areas, usually rural towns or villages, are experiencing much better take-up rates than the major operators with their urban-focused roll outs. The often-cited example is the community broadband project OnsNet (OurNet) in the small town of Nuenen in the Netherlands, where more than 80 per cent of the community signed up to the local FTTH network. Another example is Altibox in Norway, a service provider that contracts with small network owners to provide a common web-based portal with a choice of services, which says it has connected about 70 per cent of homes passed.

An operational necessity?

“Fiber To The Home is no longer an option it is a necessity to support Cloud Computing and the coming Industrial Revolution. It is the only technology that can provide the connectivity we need. It also offers the lowest installation and operating cost, the best ROI, year-on-year CAPEX, whilst returning the best reliability, resilience and the ultimate future proofing,” writes analyst Peter Cochrane.

This may sound like hyperbole, but it is essentially true. The closer buildings and homes can get to a fiber future, and fully tap into it, the faster the digital revolution will occur. Just ask Google—the company is rolling out fiber, new, high-speed services, and beating legacy ISPs in traditionally stronghold markets. Google even threw down on a superfast undersea cable linking the U.S. with Asia (it was notably the only U.S. investor on the project).  Don’t get Screwgled—plan a fiber strategy today!



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