PON becoming more attractive for mobile backhaul says Ovum analyst

While the use of passive optical network (PON) technology for mobile backhaul isn’t new, Julie Kunstler, principal analyst at Ovum, suggests that the evolution through 3G, 4G LTE, and small cells will make the FTTx technology even more appealing for such applications. The result could be a market opportunity on the scale of $1 billion, she predicts.

“PON is an excellent fit for mobile backhaul traffic, especially for macrocells and small cells located in or near urban areas,” Kunstler says. “Significant amounts of mobile traffic are created in urban areas, such as train stations, shopping centers, and cultural and sporting events. Typically FTTx networks are deployed first in urban areas.”

Communications services providers (CSPs) who deployed PON with business customers in mind will likely make the leap first, if they haven’t already. And more fiber-optic network builders likely will follow this lead, Kunstler believes.

“Today, given the costs of building the fiber network, more and more CSPs are planning their FTTx around mixed services, including FTTH, fiber to the enterprises, and mobile data backhaul,” she says. From a technical perspective, PON is a superb fit for mobile backhaul. PON component and equipment vendors have added essential timing synchronization functions to meet the stringent timing requirements of wireless networks.”

Such PON systems vendors could see a significant return on their R&D investments, Kunstler believes. “From a total addressable market perspective, the growth in public carrier small cells could represent a $1 billion market for PON component and equipment vendors,” she explains. “Governments should welcome this market application for PON as it will accelerate network monetization, encouraging CSPs to accelerate FTTx network deployments.”

FTTH Council APAC: focus on monetization

Keynote sessions for the second day of the annual FTTH Council Asia Pacific Conference focused on real-life business models and network monetization.

No debates about the need for fiber

Sometimes what's not said is more important than what is said. Day two covered FTTH rollouts in Singapore, Japan, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, and New Zealand.

The words DSL, bonding, and vectoring were not mentioned. There were no debates around the need for fiber. There were discussions around FTTH pricing plans and decommissioning the copper plant.

FTTH service differentiation

In the wholesale-retail model, retail service providers must differentiate through service offerings rather than on basic FTTH network availability. Families seeking bandwidth, often referred to as bandwidth seekers, have choices regarding which service provider they choose.

Let's compare and contrast for a moment. In the US, a bandwidth seeker may have the choice between Verizon's FiOS and a cable operator such as Comcast. Or the bandwidth seeker may have a choice between a DSL-based network from AT&T and a cable operator. The evaluation of the service providers begins with evaluation of the different underlying networks.

Contrast this to the situation in Singapore, where the bandwidth seeker has a choice of services from multiple retailers where the underlying network is the same fiber. The evaluation is not around the medium but around the services running on top of the medium. Case in point: one retailer in Singapore is focusing on high-end gamers.

Planning for business services

This year, a number of presenters discussed FTTx network planning encompassing homes, enterprises, and mobile backhaul. FTTx PON has been supporting mobile traffic backhaul for many years, but this application is rapidly garnering attention with the onslaught of 3G, 4G LTE, and small cells. And while small cells will help relieve capacity constraints on macrocells, data traffic will still need to be backhauled.

Operators see FTTx for business services as a way to expand revenues, leading to faster network monetization. This led to discussions about whether operators might discriminate against residential subscribers if business services offer higher revenue streams. Certainly commissions such as the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) will keep an eye on this.

Looking back, looking ahead

The Council's conference continues to mirror the growth of FTTH in Asia-Pacific, moving from planning to implementation to operations to subscriber services. Asia-Pacific has reason to boast, given four countries with FTTx household penetration of 40% or higher.

Vodafone Ireland introduces fiber broadband services

Vodafone Ireland is posing a challenge to incumbent telco eircom with the launch of its fiber-based broadband service, offering consumers and businesses speeds of up to 70 Mbps. Beginning at €30 ($39) a month, eligible users can opt to purchase a standalone or bundled voice/data option.

The telco is offering three main options: Vodafone Simply Broadband, a standalone fiber-based broadband for €35 ($45); Vodafone Simply Talk with only voice is priced at €30 ($39); and Vodafone Home, which bundles broadband with voice calls and unlimited broadband usage, for €55 ($71).

Existing Vodafone customers can upgrade to the new service for free, while and existing mobile customers are eligible for various discounts.

Marcel de Groot, consumer director for Vodafone Ireland said a key premise of the new service is providing easy to understand plans for its customers.

“Keeping the plans simple allows the customer to be in control, choosing a plan that fits their needs without compromising on quality or speed,” he said.

Vodafone’s service follows eircom’s rollout of its new fiber-based broadband service last Friday, which is open to competitors including Vodafone Ireland.

The fiber-enabled speeds will be available to 300,000 homes and businesses in 11 areas: Clare, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Sligo, Wexford and Wicklow.

Survey Work Starts on New Isles of Scilly Fibre Optic Broadband Cable

BTOpenreach has this week dispatched one of its survey teams to begin preliminary work on their previously announced £3.7m project to divert two unused submarine fibre optic cables to the Isles of Scilly (here), which will support the rollout of superfast broadband (FTTC and FTTP) ISP products on the islands.

At present the islands 2,200 residents have to suffer a slow and inadequate Microwave radio line that connects to south west England via Lands End. By comparison the new network would cut two undersea fibre optic cables (previously used to connect the UK with Ireland and Spain) and move them to link the islands via different points on St Mary's. Both cables link back to separate parts of Cornwall, which is good for redundancy.

The effort is part of the wider £132m Superfast Cornwall scheme, which is supported by £78.5 million from BT and up to £53.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It primarily aims to make superfast internet connectivity available to 95% of Cornwall’s local homes and businesses by the end of 2014.

It's understood that Openreach’s survey team, which will have a very tricky job, arrived this week on the freight ship Gry Maritha (this operates out of Penzance in Cornwall). Never the less Openreach still expects to connect the first customers via the new link during H1-2014.

eircom launches national fiber network, targets 300,000 premises to start

eircom, Ireland's incumbent telco, has officially launched its new open access fiber-based broadband network, enabling speeds of up to 70 Mbps for, initially, more than 300,000 premises.

By the end of this year, the telco says its network footprint will include more than 600,000 premises and 1.2 million, or about 60 percent, of homes and businesses in Ireland by 2015.

The telco's FTTx network will leverage a mix of fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) with a hybrid fiber/copper VDSL2 connection and fiber to the premises (FTTP).

Herb Hribar, CEO of eircom said it "will continue to actively review its plans to expand the network beyond 1.2 million premises as far and as wide as commercially possible."

Over the FTTx network, eircom will offer consumers its set of eFibre products and bundles initially priced at €40 ($51) (promotional price for 6 months) for consumers and €24.79 ($32) for businesses. Besides data services, the telco is also trialing a new IPTV service, but has not given any firm date when it would be available.

In addition to selling to consumers and businesses directly, the last mile network will be open to other competitors that want to deliver services in its FTTx footprint.

Telcos could slash energy use 90% by '20

Net energy consumption in global communication networks can be reduced up to 90% by 2020, even as network traffic continues to rise, according to a new study by GreenTouch.

The report, released on Monday, details how drastic efficiency improvements can be delivered across the industry through the redesigning of communication networks.

The study aims to use modeling to better understand potential network operations in 2020, taking into account the dramatic increases anticipated in communications traffic over the next decade.

The research evaluated energy efficiencies in different types of networks, comparing those in 2010 with those incorporating technologies and architectures the consortium believes could be in use by 2020.

The report shows that mobile networks stand to benefit the most from energy efficiency efforts, given they are currently the most inefficient and yet the fastest-growing networks in terms of data volumes. It predicts that mobile networks could realize potential energy-efficiency improvements of up to 1,043 times.

There are benefits to be had in energy efficiencies in fixed-line and core networks too, but these would be less dramatic given they are already relatively energy efficient. Yet the report predicts that the adoption of best in class technologies and protocols could lead to a 449-fold improvement in efficiency in fixed-access networks and 95-fold improvement in the core networks.

The report has identified some of the new technologies, architectures and protocols – small cells-deployment in dense urban environments, infrastructure-sharing across operators, discontinuous transmissions during periods without traffic, dynamic allocation of resources and the GreenTouch-developed Bit Interleaved Passive Optical Network (Bi-PON) protocol – which can help slash energy consumption.

“We are extremely proud of the progress we’ve made in our first three years, yet there is still much more we can do to improve efficiencies and effectively reinvent technologies in the name of environmental stewardship,” said Thierry Van Landegem, chairman of GreenTouch. “Reducing energy by 90% is conservative as we have many projects underway whose effects were not taken into account in that number.”

GreenTouch is a consortium consisting of 53 telecoms operators, vendors, and research bodies around the world, including China Mobile, Bell Labs, AT&T, France Telecom Orange, KT, Swisscom, Vodafone, Huawei and Samsung.

The study was conducted as part of GreenTouch’s Green Meter analysis to assess progress towards its goal. For the purpose of the report, energy efficiency is defined as the ratio of the useful traffic carried by a network and the total energy required to support that traffic over a year. Findings of the report will be made available to service providers for identifying technologies, architectures and protocols to improve network energy efficiency, the GreenTouch said.

The consortium added it will continue its work on network architectures and technologies to further the consortium’s progress. Reports will be issued through 2015, with the next update expected later this year.

Taipei City Begins Work on FTTH

Mayor Hau Lung-bin presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for the City's Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Project on May 8. He noted that offering residents an affordable high-speed Internet connection will help stimulate the growth and competitiveness of Taipei's telecommunications and cloud-related industries.

In the future, all services and queries open to the public will be integrated into the cloud and the Internet. Therefore, the move toward the cloud and the deployment of the fiber optic cable network will significantly change the current lifestyle of residents; these policies form one of the major pillars constructing the basis for future city developments.

As a leading Intelligent City, Taipei was one of the first to set the standard for a public wireless broadband network. The next step for the city is to change the residents' lifestyle through FTTH and cloud industries. Through collaborations with partners from the private sector, the city government hopes to implement its goals of establishing the three pillars of "e-government, e-community, and e-life."

The granting of the construction permit for FTTH by the NCC signaled the beginning of the plan's implementation. It also established the milestone for Taipei's transformation into a city with high-speed, fiber-optic cable network.

The mayor expressed his hope that the districts of Neihu, Nangang, Songshan, and Xinyi could be connected to the network within one year. He also hoped that by the end of 2015, the city can obtain a household penetration rate of 80-percent or more.

To avoid the hassle of closing roads to make way for constructions, the deployment of the cables will be conducted through the installation of "microducts" and similar methods, creating minimal impact upon the surrounding roads and traffic.

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.

Hull ISP KC Reveal Next H2 2013 Phase of its Fibre Optic Broadband Rollout

The incumbent ISP for Hull and surrounding areas in East Yorkshire (England), KC, has today named the next batch of locations that will benefit from its new superfast fibre optic (FTTH and FTTC) based Lightstream broadband products.

So far 17,000 homes and businesses in areas including Kingswood, Greatfield estate and Beverley can already receive the new service and a further 13,000 are expected to go live by the end of 2013. In total KC aims to reach 45,000 local premises with its new service by March 2015 and 3,600 customers have already subscribed (up slightly from 3,500 users and 15k passed in March 2013).

The spring / H1 2013 phase of KC’s roll-out plan was announced last month (here) and the new H2 2013 roll-out areas announced today (full details) include streets around Newland Avenue and Beverley Road (from July 2013), the area around Hessle town centre and First Lane in Hessle (from November 2013), and parts of Brough (from December 2013).

Business locations within the next phase of KC’s roll-out include parts of Hull city centre and Anlaby Road, as well as industrial estates and the surrounding areas at Sutton Fields, Leads Road, Marfleet Road, Bontoft Road, Grovehill Road, Cleveland Street and Wincolmlee; and King George, Queen Elizabeth and Alexandra Docks.

Gary Young, KC’s Business and Consumer Director, said:

“This is the latest phase in our multi-million pound project to give our customers the best-connected homes and businesses in the UK.

The service has been extremely popular among both residential customers and businesses. We’re finding many homes are using it to stream online TV, while businesses are making the most of it to exploit services like cloud computing and videoconferencing, which improve efficiency and flexibility.

We’re looking forward to rolling it out more widely throughout this year and next.”

The Lightstream packages themselves offer speeds of up to 350Mbps (Megabits per second) via KC’s top-end Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) solution and up to 80Mbps where their slower FTTC service is available. It should be noted that KC uses its own FTTH/C solutions and these are not related to BT’s separate roll-out of near identical technology.