Tuesday, September 09, 2008

FTTH in the UK: small leap of faith needed

Yesterday Analysys Mason published its fiber-in-the-UK report for the Broadband Stakeholders Group. Recently, there has been a wide range of FTTH related developments. Let's first make a little list of them:
  • Incufiber: KPN is steadily, if not stealthily, rolling out through its Glashart ('heart of glass') joint venture with privately owned Reggefiber. New towns are coming on board on a near daily basis. Telefonica is launching its network October 1. Swisscom is getting serious too. Makedonski Telekom (owned by Deutsche Telekom) is rolling out in Skopje. SureWest (USA) is progressing too.
  • Munifiber, utility fiber, etc.: Greece and Mauritius launched a big plan, whereas Australia (primarily targeting FTTC) and New Zealand are still stuck in the debating phase. Saudi Arabia is building a new city for 2m people, with FTTH from Ericsson. In the US, progress was made in several towns. Localised initiatives are found in Ireland and Australia too.
  • Altnetfiber: Smart Comp is building in Brno. Over in Korea, Hanaro Telecom is getting its act together.
  • Cable. There are several initiatives worldwide, most recently in Hawaii (Time Warner Cable), Japan (Suo Cable) and the US (Corn Belt Communications).
  • Open access. Europe is fighting for the extension of open access obligations from copper to fiber. Companies as diverse as KPN and Telstra are saying they are in the OA mood. But not Telefonica. Interestingly, in Utah the iProvo network was acquired by Broadweave, which subsequently tried to end competition by buying up two independent service providers. But those deals fell through.
  • Upgrades. 100 Mb/s isn't the end of it, 1 Gb/s is now in sight. FastWeb (controlled by Swisscom) still has to upgrade to 100 Mb/s first. Somehow, I have a feeling we will see more of that tomorrow ...
Here are my very easy comments:
  • Of course the Brits need to do FTTH. Is anybody listening? Access networks are bottlenecks - FTTH is the end game - it takes 20 years to build - video is coming - and there are indeed socio-economic benefits, as this very convenient study from Eindhoven University shows (in relation to the well-known networks of Nuenen and Eindhoven in the Netherlands).
  • Check out the new (second) Akamai report on the State of the Internet, as observed through their network. There is a lot about security, but Akamai also ranks countries by the percentage of connections above 5 Mb/s. Comparing the Q2 report with the Q1 report, some minor things catch the eye. The top 10 is pretty much the same, with South Korea #1 with an unchanged 64% of connections faster than 5 Mb/s. Belgium and the US make a big leap forward, both to 26% (from 21 and 20% resp.).
  • Things are complicated. Analysys Mason produced an impressive report, but it's just a cost model, in other words: one half of the equation. There are so many variables, a decisive report, including a revenue model, is totally unrealistic. Why not then make a little leap of faith and play the end-game?

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