FTTx Market Starts Lighting Up in India

The consumption of broadband services is exponentially growing, with the sheer unpredictability of demand making it difficult to determine the network capacity operators’ need to satisfy their customers with the best experience at the lowest cost.

India has very low broadband penetration (net broadband additions per two months is 0.1-0.2 million – i.e., 18 million mobile connections per month), which provides a huge opportunity for the optical fiber networks to be deployed in fiber-to-the-x (FTTx) configurations in the urban/semi-urban scenarios. Moreover, increased adoption of applications such as e-medicine, video conferencing, e-Learning, security surveillance, et. al., will increase capacity/bandwidth requirements.

The Indian government has set a target of 48 million broadband connections for a sample of 241 million households by 2012 for which the number of connection with contention ratio is 1 million, which requires core bandwidth (at 3 Mbit/s) speed totaling 3000 Gbit/s.

Right of way delays due to significant variability in policies across states is a current challenge in the market. One of the big problems facing telecom operators is the cost associated with gaining permission to build new ducts and lay the fiber, with an estimated 70 percent of the cost of building a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network eaten up by payments to local authorities and the organizations involved in digging up the roads. Gaining access to buildings is also a major hurdle – one that could lead to high-speed broadband access networks being deployed in local pockets, rather than being widespread.

In the last decade, Indian service providers, both public and private, have together laid over one million kilometers of optical fiber across the country. However, most of the fiber is concentrated in metros and Tier-1 cities, while rural and suburban communities have limited access to telecom services. It has been estimated that the existing optical fiber network will have to be augmented by another one million kilometers to ensure nationwide connectivity to consumers and businesses throughout India. Government optical fiber initiatives such as NKN, NBN, SWAN and NOFN will play a major role in closing this gap, while making the network future-proof for a full basket of high-bandwidth applications that will be the mainstay of modern telecom networks.

Optical fiber access will progressively penetrate deeper into the network and edge closer to the end-user. However, fiber laying is a time consuming process, so in the interim, multiple technologies such as xDSL, microwave and broadband wireless technologies (LTE) will continue to coexist in the first mile.

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