Orange launches own FTTH network in Spain

Orange Spain says it has completed its first fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) deployment project and has launched the fiber-based services for the general public in the La Vaguada district of Madrid.

Customers in areas covered by FTTH will now have access to Internet speeds of up to 100 Mbps, as well as many other services, the operator says. Following this initial stage, in the coming months Orange will be in a position to offer its most advanced technologies and services to people living in other Spanish cities.

In addition to the La Vaguada district, other areas of Madrid, including Retiro, Montecarmelo, Sanchinarro, Chamberí, and Vicálvaro could also benefit from FTTH services. In total, up to 40,000 homes in the Spanish capital could be connected to the fiber-optic network.

A further 58,000 homes in Catalonia and Asturias could also be offered FTTH services from Orange via third-party networks. So by next summer, Orange could be providing FTTH to as many as 100,000 homes and businesses in Spain.

Over the next 12 months, Orange plans to expand its fiber-optic broadband offer to 400,000 homes across the country in partnership with Vodafone Spain, following an agreement signed by the two operators in March

Singapore homes to be prewired with fiber

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has mandated that new homes should be prewired with optical fiber.

The new Code of Practice for Info-communication Facilities in Buildings (COPIF) code requires that each new home is installed with an optical fiber termination point. Each living room and bedroom should be provided with Category 6 cabling capable of carrying data speeds of more than 1 Gbps.

It also called for the provision of rent-free Mobile Deployment Space (MDS) and new buildings and developments for enhanced mobile coverage in both existing and new developments. The MDS requirements will vary depending on the size of the developments or the mobile coverage area of the developments.

Some flexibility may be accorded to developers and owners of buildings and developments in meeting the MDS requirements. Moreover, developers and owners of buildings and developments will only need to provide the MDS upon request from the mobile operators, as the provision of the space may not be necessary in cases where there is already adequate mobile coverage within the developments.

A key clarification made in COPIF 2013 is the use of space and facilities to serve beyond the boundaries of a development, a scenario provided for in the Telecommunications Act. The space and facilities provided by the developer or owner of a building/development under COPIF 2013 are primarily intended for telecommunication licensees to deploy installation, plant and systems to serve the telecommunication needs of the development itself.

Leong Keng Thai, IDA deputy chief executive and director-general (Telecoms & Post), said that the “Changes in this COPIF are to ensure that homes are built for future infocomm needs brought about by developments such as the nationwide deployment of the Next Gen NBN, the increasing mobile penetration rate, and the increasing pervasiveness of smartphones, and other mobile broadband-enabled devices.”

These new amendments will take effect from 1 May 2013. The COPIF was introduced in 2000 to ensure that developers and owners of buildings and developments provide adequate space and facilities for the deployment and operation of installation, plant and systems which are used for providing info-communication services to the buildings

FTTx subscribers growing quickly, says Broadband Forum and Point Topic

Fiber-optic broadband access networks showed a strong growth in subscribers served last year, according to the Broadband Forum and market research firm Point Topic. Fiber to the node/cabinet (FTTN/FTTC, which Broadband Forum denotes as FTTx) using VDSL or VDSL2 saw the largest growth in subscribers among the broadband access technologies tracked, with fiber to the home (FTTH) right behind.

Overall, the number of broadband subscribers grew 8.6% in 2012 to reach 643,770,042. FTTx subscriber numbers jumped 27.5% for the year, to 114,440,536. FTTH subscribers reached 19,308,751, a 20.3% increase.

However, both fiber-based access technologies trail legacy DSL and cable modem for the top spots. DSL networks served 366.7 million subscribers (up 3.6%) and cable modem infrastructure served 123.6 million (up 7.2%) worldwide. Combined, however, fiber access now sits at Number 2.

Fixed wireless, including satellite, supported 10,811,152 at year’s end, an increase of 12%.

“Demand for bandwidth can be satisfied by FTTx solutions, particularly in combination with vectoring, bonding, and other incremental VDSL2 improvements so operators will continue to maximize the lifetime of their existing assets,” said Oliver Johnson, CEO of Point Topic.

Looking regionally, China remained the largest consumer of broadband, with subscriber numbers growing 15% year over year. However, Brazil (17.96%), India (14.1%), and Russia (12.81%) saw significant jumps in broadband subscriber numbers.

In the U.S., which is the second largest broadband market behind China, subscriber totals grew 3.89% to 95,196,150.

“These are promising figures as they highlight the ongoing strength of the broadband market,” commented Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum. “We are increasingly witnessing a shift in technology, particularly to fiber, as consumer habits evolve and the demand for higher bandwidths increases.”

Japan ISP launches 2Gbps fiber service

Sony-backed Japanese ISP So-net has launched what it is billing as the world’s fastest consumer broadband service, offering downlink speeds of a blazing 2Gbps.

The GPON fiber network also offers uplink speeds of 1Gbps, Engadget reported. So-net is around 58% owned by Sony.

The max speed is double the 1Gbps Google is offering with its high-profile Google Fiber trial network in Kansas City, and at a lower cost: So-net is offering the service for 4,980 yen ($51) per month on a two-year contract, compared to the $70 per month for Google’s fiber-only package.

So-net is charging an installation fee of 52,500 yen, but is currently waving this cost for customers applying for the service online.

The service is currently available in Tokyo and six surrounding districts – Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Kanagawa and Saitama.

The service is so fast it exceeds the capacity of most consumer broadband adapters, but will be useful for multiple high-speed connections.

Japan is well known for being among the countries with the fastest average broadband speeds in the world.

EU: new homes must be ready for high-speed broadband

The European Commission has proposed that all new buildings constructed in the EU must be ready for high-speed fibre broadband.

In a draft proposal published today, the Commission suggested that both newly-constructed buildings and those undergoing major renovation would be equipped with “high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure”.

The regulations would oblige builders “to provide new multi-dwelling buildings, as well as old ones that undergo extensive renovation, with a concentration point located in or outside the building”.

In addition, the rulings would make it more affordable for telecommunications companies to gain access to infrastructure, with access to ducts to be provided “on fair and reasonable terms”, a move designed to increase competition among service providers.

The EU also wants to see better cooperation between utility providers when upgrading infrastructure, and a simplified planning process for the installation of masts and antennae.

The EU has lofty goals when it comes to internet speed throughout Europe; it expects 100% of EU residents to have access to a 30Mbits/sec connection by 2020, with at least 50% of those boasting 100Mbits/sec speeds.

Earlier this month, Ofcom released its first scorecard to compare how the UK was doing versus the rest of Europe, without revealing how the UK fared in terms of speed.

The regulator also has ambitions to have “the best broadband in Europe” by 2015, and has already outlined its own suggestions that all new-builds get access to fibre broadband.

France Telecom, SFR sign fibre plan for Paris region

France Telecom-Orange and SFR have signed a fibre rollout plan with central government and the Ile-de-France region setting the level of private investment in the network. The agreement targets 100 percent residential and business FttH access by 2020 for the Ile-de-France region, which comprises the city of Paris and its surrounding suburbs.

While the operators have already started rolling out FTTH in Paris, the latest agreement focuses on ensuring coverage for less dense areas in the region. The carriers’ network investments in very densely populated areas are intended to bring FttH to 4.7 million homes, or 89 percent of households in the region. France Telecom and SFR will respectively roll out fibre in 198 and 122 towns not classified as being very densely populated.

In the remaining 862 municipalities where the operators will not make direct investment, publicly-owned FTTH networks will be paid for by the towns, counties, region and central government through the region’s EUR 150 million Fibre Plan.

The carriers’ specific investment commitments were not disclosed. The regional agreement opens the way for the carriers to accelerate the signing of fibre projects with individual counties. The first such agreement was already signed 28 March between Orange and Val d’Oise county.

FTTH drives opex savings reports FTTH Council study

While Verizon has long touted operational expenditure (opex) savings as a rationale for its FiOS fiber to the home (FTTH) deployments, smaller carriers also have seen similar benefits, according to a recent study by RVA LLC for the Fiber to the Home Council Americas. Small and medium-sized carriers in North America say they’ve seen an average opex savings of 20.4% annually, the study reports.

The study included input from more than 350 fiber-optic network service providers across North America. The council released the study’s results as it offered its semi-annual report on FTTH installations in North America.

“This latest survey shows not only the continued build-out of high-bandwidth fiber to the home networks in North America, but also provides one reason why hundreds of small and medium sized telcos have been upgrading to fiber — it saves them real money in the long run,” said Heather Burnett Gold, the FTTH Council’s president.

The opex savings likely is one reason that FTTH infrastructure continues to roll out across the continent. RVA and the council report that, as of the end of March, the number of North American homes with access to services from FTTH networks has grown 17.6%, to 22.7 million, versus the same time last year. Greenfield deployments have picked up by about 20% this year as well, the council and RVA reveal.

Meanwhile, North America’s FTTH subscriber count has grown 20% year-on-year to reach 9.7 million. While Verizon and Canada’s Bell Aliant are the two largest FTTH players, the council says it has identified almost 600 small and medium-sized telephone companies and nearly 100 municipalities that use FTTH to some degree.

Growth in FTTH deployments and subscribers is particularly strong in Canada. Approximately 540,000 Canadians receive services via FTTH, according to the new figures. RVA estimates that 8.8 million homes in the United States are connected to FTTH networks, while about 310,000 customers in Mexico and 30,000 subscribers in the Caribbean receive services from fiber-optic networks.

Take rates also are growing. In the United States, FTTH take rates have reached 44.8%, a record according to RVA.

“While it is clear from our survey that many prospective FTTH providers continue to face funding difficulties and regulatory uncertainty, many are still finding ways to upgrade to all-fiber because doing so reduces their maintenance costs and strengthens their opportunities to expand their subscriber base and offer customers more services,” said Michael Render, president of RVA.

. Verizon working with NYC on faster fiber deployment

Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) is teaming with New York City to test a way to more quickly deploy fiber in the city. According to Bloomberg, this pilot program will use a technique called “micro-trenching” that will allow Verizon to carve shallow grooves in the ground to deploy fiber. The trial will start in 12 sites across five boroughs and then the company and the government will decide whether to expand the program.

Verizon is hoping to gain an advantage over its competitors such as RCN or Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) by being able to sell faster speed Internet services and television service in more parts of the city. However, the micro-trenching will provide a large enough groove in the ground for other providers besides Verizon to also deploy their cables. New York City officials have said that the program is open to other providers that want to participate.

The news is not particularly surpising considering Verizon announced last year that the focus for FiOS will be on increasing the penetration in existing markets and migrating problem copper-based customers to fiber, rather than expanding its FiOS footprint.

Verizon’s copper-to-fiber migration program is particularly critical in New York City, where much of the company’s copper facilities were damaged beyond repair during Hurricane Sandy.

Micro-trenching is taking hold with other providers as well. TeliaSonera began testing the process in 2011 via its subsidiary, Skanova, outside Stockholm. And Clearfield has used the method to install its FieldShield pushable fiber product to at least one customer’s tower in the Midwest.

“Another area was we were able to install was in streets of Chicago,” Cheri Beranek, president and CEO of Clearfield, told FierceTelecom in a recent interview. “A deployment (was needed) for that tower that wouldn’t disrupt traffic…. We took micro-trenching technology, (made) a simple saw cut in the sidewalk, laid 10 mm microduct through the trench, and delivered service in a couple hours…. We never even closed traffic.”