Monday, May 19, 2008

KPN: All-IP network not ready yet for large-scale FTTH

My source at a Dutch contractor tells me that KPN is preparing a large-scale FTTH roll-out. This could be new in so far that it is really large-scale, not just a town here and a business park there.
Originally, July 1 had been targeted, but the new All-IP backbone doesn't seem to be functioning as it should just yet. KPN doesn't want to go to market early, as it did with InternetPlusBellen (the ADSL/VoIP double play), which caused several tens of millions in 'damages'. Now, it is targeting January 1 2009 for the new FTTH program.
KPN is talking to a number of towns to get their cooperation. Not in any munifiber sense, but simply to get the paperwork (costly licenses for opening up sidewalks etc.) done more quickly and possibly at a lower rate.

I think KPN is timing the (rumoured) roll-out very well. It has been fibering up greenfields and business locations and it openly talked about the FTTH end game. The market must be prepared by now for more cash going into a future proof network.
Also, KPN can forgo VDSL investments, which are very distance dependent for proper service and would probably have a short life anyway. At the same time, FTTH will bring large opex savings (Verizon touts an 80% reduction for FiOS versus copper). Finally, the three-way cable merger of Casema, @Home/Kabelcom and Multikabel into Ziggo (formerly Zesko; owned by Cinven and Warburg Pincus) just launched. They seem to be pretty cash-strapped. In 2007 they had pro forma revenues of EUR 1,141m and an EBITDA of EUR 594m. Total debt is EUR 5.36bn and the interest expense was EUR 445m. The net result was negative EUR 265m. In other words, now is the time for KPN to leap forward.

To round off, Dick Wessels reportedly is eyeing a 7-year timeframe for expanding his Reggefiber empire (open access FTTH networks in several towns), before selling out.

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