Caren B. Les, email@example.com
ZAVENTEM, Belgium – There were close to 41 million fiber-to-the-home/ building (FTTH/B) subscribers worldwide
in 2009, and the figure is expected to rise to 52 million in 2010, according to
IDATE Consulting and Research, based in Montpellier, France. The company predicts
that by the end of 2014 there will be close to 306 million residences around the
globe enabled for FTTH/B, of which 18 percent will be located in western Europe
– and of which more than half will still be in Asia.
“Several European countries show good progress in FTTH deployments.
This includes the ‘FTTH pioneers’ in northern Europe like Sweden or
Denmark as well as several Eastern European countries. But Europe as a whole still
lags behind compared to Asia and North America. Especially the big economies which
are also members of G-20 … don’t have a lot of FTTH/B deployments at
the moment. While France and Italy have at least connected approximately one percent
of their households to fiber, Germany and UK don’t show any significant deployments
at the moment,” commented Hartwig Tauber, director general of the FTTH Council
Europe, based in Zaventem.
Tauber said that the whole of Europe, including Russia, has 3.5
million FTTH/B customers. Europe alone, without Russia, has 2.5 million customers,
Benefits of FTTH/B
Fiber to the home is the term used for the delivery of a communication
signal over optical fiber directly to a home (or business), eliminating the need
for copper infrastructure such as telephone wires and coaxial cable. Current fiber
optic technology can provide two-way transmission speeds of up to 100 Mb/s, according
to the FTTH Council Europe.
Fiber-to-the-home technology is expected to expand in Europe, providing subscribers with benefits
such as the rapid downloading of high-definition movies. Courtesy of i3 Group Ltd.
The Council notes on its Web site that ongoing improvements in
fiber optic equipment are constantly increasing available bandwidth without having
to change the fiber, making it “future proof.” The benefits of the technology
for subscribers include rapid up- and downloading of files, such as of photos and
high-definition movies, and access to a variety of interactive applications, such
as video communication, video on demand, teleworking, telemedicine, gaming, cloud
computing, e-learning and e-government.
IDATE’s end-of-2009 list of the top 10 countries in terms
of FTTH/B subscribers worldwide was headed by Japan, South Korea and the US, with
17.1 million, 9.2 million and 5.7 million connections, respectively. In descending
order, Sweden, Italy and France trailed on the list, with 537,100, 325,000 and 308,200
Roland Montagne, director of IDATE’s Telecoms Business Unit,
commented that even if FTTH/B is progressing in Europe, the main weakness today
is the technology’s low penetration rate. He noted that the ratio of subscribers
to homes passed (homes that can easily be connected) at the end of 2009 was around
37 percent in Japan and 29 percent in the US, but only 15 percent in Europe, so
it seems that consumers and businesses don’t perceive the FTTH benefits yet,
Report from Lisbon
The FTTH/B market is growing steadily in western and northern
Europe, stated representatives from the FTTH Council Europe and IDATE during a press
conference at the FTTH Conference 2010 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Their corresponding document Creating a Brighter Future includes
the FFTH European Ranking 2009, compiled by the two organizations. Sweden, Norway
and Denmark ranked second, third and sixth, respectively, below Lithuania, which
was in the top position. Representing the G-20 major economies, France and Italy
are on the list, while the UK and Germany are notably absent. The ranking, which
totaled 15 countries, and upon which many of the report conclusions are based, covers
all countries with at least 200,000 households where the penetration of FTTH/B has
reached 1 percent of the total number of homes.
The report notes that, besides Lithuania, several other Eastern
European countries are significantly deploying the technology: Slovenia, Estonia,
Slovakia, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are in the ranking as well.
The document mentions that in Portugal, the collaborative efforts
of many players moved the technology forward significantly within a year. Portugal
boasted a 186 percent increase in FFTH subscribers in 2009 and a fivefold increase
in homes passed by fiber. The country is investing in next-generation fiber networks
and aims to reach 100 percent coverage of the Portuguese territory, according to
Ethernet is still the first choice of players and represented
84 percent of the total FTTH/B rollouts at the end of 2009, according to IDATE.
Topics of discussion at the FTTH Conference 2010 included how
businesses and end users can use the high bandwidth, interactive television and
convergence of television and the Internet, the still developing and sometimes controversial
regulatory status for broadband and FTTH, and innovative and efficient methods of
deploying fiber to the living unit within existing multidwelling units.
Fiber to the UK and Italy
“With less than 5000 fiber subscribers, when compared with
5.3 million fiber broadband-enabled homes in Sweden, the UK is way behind when it
comes to next-generation access,” said Chris Holden, president of the FTTH
Council, in a June 2010 press release.
Work to boost FTTH technology in the UK is in progress, however.
For example, Fibrecity Holdings, an i3 Group company based in Newton Le Willows,
UK, plans to build in the UK over the next four years a fiber optic network that
will connect more than 1 million homes and businesses. The initiative is expected
to deliver standard speeds of 100 Mb/s and boosts of up to 1 Gb/s.
During the next 12 months, the company plans to begin building
networks in Derby, Halton, Nottingham, Plymouth and York; other UK cities are also
under consideration. Fibrecity networks are already under way in Dundee and Bournemouth.
More than 35,000 homes have subscribed in the latter city as of May 2010. The i3
Group uses cost-effective techniques such as installing fiber optic networks using
existing ducts, including the sewer system, to avoid the cost and disruption of
“The antiquated copper ‘last mile’ is the biggest
problem for connectivity speeds, slowing them down significantly by the time the
network reaches the home and the consumer is trying to access services. Building
fiber to the curb or cabinet will improve speeds, but in my opinion, this is a very
short term solution. Only a true fiber-to-the-home connection will ensure we have
a solution that will see us through several decades rather than being outdated in
a few years,” said Elfed Thomas, CEO of i3 Group Ltd.
In Italy, three alternative communication operators – Vodafone,
Wind and Fastweb – have announced plans to install a single fiber access network
across the country. Initially, they aim to connect 15 major Italian cities within
five years, with an overall investment of nearly €2.5 billion. In the second
phase of the project, they plan to extend the network to cover towns with more than
20,000 inhabitants, reaching about 50 percent of the Italian population. The FTTH
Conference 2011 is scheduled to be held in Milan, Italy.
By 2020, Holden concluded, one in five broadband users in the
UK will be able to access FTTH; however, other European nations such as Germany,
France and Italy will adopt the ultrafast broadband technology at a faster rate
and reach this minimum target a couple of years earlier.