FTTH Users Are Happy Users

Fibre to the home networks provide the most technologically advanced solution for broadband applications and services. We know this. Yet, in the next breath, some people say that we don't need advanced broadband networks to support the applications and services that we use today. Now, a study commissioned by the FTTH Council Europe provides evidence that, while it is possible to manage without advanced connections, FTTH users do much more with their broadband.

"For a long time as an analyst and researcher I felt we were missing a key part of the story, which is a quantitative confirmation that FTTH was the right way to go," explained Benoît Felten, CEO of consultancy firm Diffraction Analysis, which carried out the research. "This survey of FTTH/B consumers in Sweden is the first to provide that kind of evidence."

The results of the survey of 400 Swedish broadband users, carried out in December 2013, aimed to discover users' attitudes towards broadband. Sweden was selected because it is a mature FTTH market – if there is a difference then it is likely to show up there first. And it did. A full 45% of FTTH/B users declared themselves "very satisfied" with their broadband, compared to only 28% for DSL users. This is a very satisfaction high value for a survey of this type, says the analyst.

FTTH/B users were more satisfied than DSL users on all technical parameters, such as upload speed, download speed and reactivity (latency). Satisfaction levels were particularly high amongst gigabit subscribers (50%). Regardless of technology, satisfaction was much lower among users on connection speeds less than 100Mbps. Speed does matter!

The survey also investigated satisfaction with service pricing and willingness to upgrade as well as usage patterns and how they differed between FTTH/B and DSL users. The results will surprise you.

Download the Consumer Experience Survey presentation (PDF)

China to bring FTTH to 30m more homes in '14

China plans to connect 30 million more homes with FTTH by the end of the year as part of the Broadband China program.

Minister of industry and information technology Miao Wei has announced a goal of having 200 million users connected under the FTTH program by the end of 2014, state-owned news agency Xinhua reported.

Other goals for the Broadband China Program this year include bringing broadband to 13,800 more villages and reaching 30% penetration for fixed broadband connections over 8Mbps.

Optical Networks Increase Broadband Speeds in Oman

Omantel, the state owned telecommunication service provider of the Sultanate of Oman announces that speed of the broadband services to its subscribers have significantly increased, thanks to the data carrying capacity of fiber optic cables. Optical fiber cable networks help service providers to deliver high speed services without affecting the monthly charges thereby benefiting end users. Enhanced end user experience is the key behind the successful business of a broadband service provider. Almost 90 percent of Omantel broadband customers get advantage of increased speed.

High speed broadband opens up a new list of opportunities and life changing applications that most of the people might not have even thought about. Broadband, especially delivered over fiber optic networks is an accelerator, for inclusive and sustainable growth. It opens new paths of creativity and new means to share the knowledge. Broadband widens learning opportunities. Its power is a known fact and was visible during the recent freedom movements in some Middle East and African countries.

Omantel has been investing heavily in building new telecommunication infrastructures throughout Oman in a bid to provide modern communication services to its subscribers. Omantel had invested in fiber optic networks as well. The expansion and construction of fiber optic networks took the operator closer to its subscribers. Fiber optic networks carry huge amounts of data generated by broadband applications. Omantel constructed Fiber to the home networks and rolled out many Multiple Service Access Nodes. All these developments enabled the operator to upgrade its speed significantly. The current offer of enhanced speed covers more than 90 percent of Omantel customers. The operator upgrades the uploading speed to 1 Mbps.

Omantel broadband subscribers at the basic plan with a download speed of 2 Mbps can enjoy a double speed of 4 Mbps. For customers of 5 Mbps, the new change is just an additional 1 Mbps to make a download speed of 6 Mbps. 40 Mbps customers get a 1.5 times boost in the speed, which is up to 60 Mbps. The changes come without any additional burden to the subscribers and this is the point of attraction. If the operator increases the speed by charging more from its users it would not have been news for us. There are two interesting points in this news;

1. Fiber optic networks enabled a service provider to offer higher broadband services to its existing subscribers free of charge,

2. The attitude of service provider itself. Here is a provider, who shares the benefits with the customers, thus showing its social commitment.

Broadband must be a social commitment. High speed broadband is a catalyst in national development especially in developing countries. High speed broadband has the potential to transform and take human civilizations to the next stage of evolution. There are many key issues to be addressed in the deployment of broadband such as whether it is a pure business, or is it a social commitment. If we approach broadband as a business, we would end up in increasing the digital divide. Data says, around 95 percent of telecommunications infrastructures worldwide are funded by private sectors. Then the difficult task would be to find the “Social commitment” element when we make business.

Google Fiber’s Brewing Little Secret Exposed: It’s GPON!

Last week, Google Fiber made another big pronouncement that it has added 34 more cities in nine U.S. metro areas to its list of potential fiberhoods. This, of course, generated a massive amount of publicity for Google Fiber in the U.S. and globally. In the meantime, across the Atlantic, the FTTH Council Europe held its annual conference in Stockholm, Sweden, where we learned that the Google Fiber network is not Ethernet FTTH, but (drum roll, please)…GPON!

When Google Fiber first declared its intentions several years ago to build a Gigabit-capable fiber access network in the city that made the strongest case for itself (i.e., Kansas City, USA), the assumption from the beginning was that Google Fiber would leverage an active, point-to-point Ethernet FTTH access network technology (and architecture) to deliver its symmetric, 1 Gbps connection to each household.In fact, Google Fiber extensively tested active/P2P Ethernet FTTH systems from multiple vendors (e.g., Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent and Zhone). However, over the past several years – not coincidentally, as the Google Fiber network was actually built out in Kansas City – there have been assertions from networking professionals and others (including knowledgeable Google Fiber customers) that the connections are in fact GPON.To be clear, the exception to this is the former iProvo network in Utah, which utilizes the legacy active/P2P Ethernet network built years ago under previous ownership, and which Google Fiber bought in April 2013 for $1 (USD).

So,does it really matter that Google Fiber is using GPON instead of active Ethernet?. For Google Fiber customers, the answer is no, as most end users care far less about technology than the service delivered.For network operators and their networking systems suppliers, however, it matters a great deal.The advantage of active/P2P Ethernet is that each end user is provided with a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet port at the operator’s central office, which can be 10/100 or 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps), in contrast to a PON system, where each optical line terminal (OLT) port serves multiple end users by virtual splits (hence, the point-to-multipoint PON architecture). Split ratios are variable, but are ideally in multiples of eight (e.g., 1:16, 1:32).

Active/P2P Ethernet is superior in terms of delivering dedicated, symmetric bandwidth, but the reality is that very few end users are going to utilize a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet port, especially on a “24/7/365” basis. Simply put, dedicating a GigE port to each user is not only extremely expensive, but vastly underutilized in terms of traffic throughput, even for heavy users.

Google Fiber’s choice of GPON to deliver 1 Gbps symmetric services makes sense on several levels, the most important being capital costs. In addition to the central office cost of 1 GigE port (on an Ethernet switch or OLT) for each end user, the expense of “stringing up” hundreds (let alone thousands) of dedicated optical fibers on the aerial plant in Kansas City, for example, is dramatically higher compared to a GPON network, where each OLT port serves multiple end users (again, 16, 32, etc.), and the PON network has a much smaller fiber density in the field.

In closing, it is important to remember that Google Fiber is not the only Gigabit service provider to leverage GPON technology/architecture, or even the first. In the United States, Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Electric Power Board (EPB) was the first to offer symmetric Gigabit services (to a sizeable serving area, that is), and in China, Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) has offered the world’s cheapest ultra-broadband, Gigabit connection to its primarily residential end users at approximately $29/month.Both of these operators have offered these services for at least four years, well ahead of Google Fiber (incidentally, both are using Alcatel-Lucent’s GPON systems).As more operators begin to offer Gigabit connections, they will undoubtedly leverage GPON systems and architectures to deliver these ultra-broadband services.

EU approves directive to reduce broadband roll-out costs

EU members have reached agreement on a draft directive aimed at reducing the cost of rolling out broadband networks. Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said the agreement between the European Parliament, Commission and Council on the text of the legislation will lead to significant savings in the cost of civil engineering. The Commission proposed in March 2013 the new rules, which it says can save up to 30 percent on the cost of roll-out. The European Parliament will vote the formal approval of the agreement in April, and the Council of Ministers will follow in June.

The legislation aims to ensure that all new buildings or those undergoing major renovation are equipped for next-generation broadband, standard access on reasonable terms is available to all infrastructure (such as existing ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles, masts, antennae installations, towers), network operators are allowed to negotiate access agreements with other infrastructure providers, and the process of granting permits, especially for masts and antennas, is simplified and shortened to a maximum six months.

Virgin Media Boosts Top Fibre Optic Speeds to 152Mbps

Virgin Media is boosting the top quoted speed of its broadband service to 152Mbps, twice as fast as the quickest BT consumer fibre connection, while it is also increasing the speeds of its slower packages.

Existing customers will have to opt in to receive the boost, but those currently receiving 120Mbps will be able to upgrade to the new fastest speeds, while those on 60Mbps can now get 100Mbps and those on 30Mbps will be able to receive 50Mbps, which Virgin Media claims is the fastest entry level services in the UK.

The Liberty Global-owned firm says one of the reasons it is offering the upgrades is because peak internet use has risen by 55 percent in the past year and 1,000 percent since it was formed in 2007 as a result of a merger between Telewest and NTL.

Virgin Media speeds

“Overwhelmingly people tell us the internet is a force for good,” says Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge. “From daily life to the bigger aspects of society, culture and economic growth, digital is making a significant, positive difference to people’s lives. We’re supercharging our incredible network to ensure that Virgin Media customers can make the most of the online world.”

Virgin Media first announced its intention to upgrade its speeds last November, but at the same time announced its prices would increase by an average of 6.7 percent. However despite the increases, the increase in bandwidth is being welcomed by analysts.

“To take advantage of Virgin’s new speeds, existing customers must opt in, but at no extra cost – nor do they need to sign up to new contracts. And new customers can sign up for the boosted speeds at current prices, too. “It’s a very good deal,” says Marie-Louise Abretti, broadband expert at uSwitch.

Parental controls

“However, Virgin’s fibre optic network only reaches around half of UK homes. And, while some Virgin customers will be enjoying three-figure speeds, there are remote rural areas of the UK still stuck in the broadband slow lane, contending with patchy connections and sluggish speeds. More needs to be done to bring faster broadband to the whole of Britain, and not just urban areas.”

Virgin Media will also be providing new customers parental controls in the form Web Safe, which will be offered at the time of installation, and claims to block age-inappropriate websites. The new controls will also be offered to existing customers and work with F-Secure SAFE.

“Parents will now be able to make a simple choice to activate family friendly filters that will cover all devices connected to the family’s home internet,” says Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

Telefonica to accelerate investment in 2014

Telefonica announced plans to boost investment in 2014 in order to take advantage of demand for faster data services and accelerate its sales growth. The company forecast capital expenditure of 15.5-16 percent of revenues this year, versus 14.5 percent in 2013. Revenues are expected to show "positive growth" in 2014, after a 0.7 percent organic increase last year. The EBITDA margin will remain under pressure, after dropping 0.2 points last year and 1.4 percent points in 2012. Telefonica said the margin could start to stabilise this year or fall by as much as 1 point if the company decides to spend on commercial opportunities.

The Spanish operator also reiterated plans to pay shareholders a dividend of EUR 0.35 per share in stock in the fourth quarter of this year and another EUR 0.40 in cash by mid-2015. For 2013, Telefonica paid EUR 0.35 last November and will offer another EUR 0.40 in Q2 this year. The company’s free cash flow was down to EUR 5.4 billion in 2013, from EUR 7.0 billion in 2012, mainly due to a doubling of spending on spectrum, to EUR 1.5 billion. Telefonica still met its net debt target for 2013 with a reduction of EUR 5.9 billion to a total EUR 45.4 billion or 2.36x EBITDA at end-2013. The company said it expects debt to drop to under EUR 43 billion by the end of 2014.

For 2013, the company reported revenues down 8.5 percent to EUR 57.1 billion, and OIBDA fell 10.1 percent to EUR 19.1 billion. Net profit was up 16.9 percent to EUR 4.6 billion, including a EUR 350 million writedown of the stake in Telecom Italia. In the fourth quarter, the company recorded a 1.8 percent organic increase in sales, as 10.3 percent growth in Latin America offset a 7.9 percent fall in Europe. Due to negative currency effects, reported revenues were still down 8.9 percent for the group to EUR 14.4 billion, and OIBDA fell 8.7 percent to EUR 5.0 billion.

In operating terms, the 9.4 percent quarterly growth in the postpaid mobile sector and 8 percent rise in pay-TV access boosted the group’s customer base to 323.1 million accesses by the end of December, a 2.3 percent year-on-year rise. Mobile broadband subscriptions increased 38 percent and now account for 29 percent of the group’s total mobile base.

Earlier Telefonica announced a EUR 1.5 billion cost-savings programme and a reorganization that gives chief operating officer Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete more executive responsibilities by overseeing operations across Europe and Latin America. The company intends to integrate its Europe, Latin America and digital divisions and create the new position of chief commercial digital officer.