Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not so conventional wisdom in FTTH

The always excellent Benoit 'Fiberevoltion' Felten points us to a piece of market research from Dutch consultancy Stratix. Here are some additional points to make - very much the creeds of this blog.

Most interesting to me is to see how conventional wisdom can be contradicted: structural separation is good for business and investment; more than one FTTH network is feasible.
  • FTTH is a community driven business. It takes a 40-50% take-up to get the business case working. (Wilson (NC) apparently only needs 30%, but I suppose that is exceptionally low.)
  • Stratix refers to the problem of in-home wiring in Amsterdam's Citynet. However, my inside source tells me that it is a non-typical event related to a single MDU. Apparently, some hotshot architect decided that all meter cupboards should be located on the ground floor. Ducts going up to elevated appartments were not allowed in the stairwell, so installation required all your below neighbors to be home on the day the wiring was to be installed. This problem was intensified by the fact that many inhabitants are using their appartment as a pied-à-terre only.
  • As I found out before, there is a lack of construction workers. This is probably the biggest limiting factor for quickly rolling out FTTH. At the same time, it implies that you need to start early if you don't want to fall behind in building a future-proof network.
  • Three-layer model. In contrast with an earlier report, Stratix claims that KPN would not be a co-owner of the passive layer in Almere. Now, with the Reggefiber FttH joint-venture that will obviously change. In other words, Mr. Farwerck turns out to be right after all in that KPN will indeed co-own the passive layer. Anyway, checking with the KPN IR group it was confirmed that Reggefiber FttH will be open to other service providers, but the active layer will be a KPN monopoly.
  • The entrance of real estate investors. FTTH enhances property values and is interesting to long-term investors. In addition, open access lowers the risk (as per Pensioenfonds Vervoer), since it reduces service provider default risk. Stratix contrasts these investors to private equity funds (high risk, no openness, restricted investments).
  • My crucial belief is supported: "Both deals of ING and Rabo Bouwfonds demonstrate market led investment in structural(ly) separated networks. These deals counter the widely held beliefs in telecommunications policy papers that structural separation is bad for innovation."
  • "Local loop economics indicates only one network per area to be feasible." This is an all too obvious statement, but let's do some basic math here. If you can make a business case at a c. 40% penetration, than there must be room for at least two networks, assuming that the entire population will sooner or later migrate to FTTH!
  • Stratix expects a 'run-for-the-market'.

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