Author: Victoria Barnato - Categories:
Fibre deployment is seen as a solution to rising bandwidth demands from households and businesses.
This is because fibre has, at least in theory, unlimited capacity, low latency and is less vulnerable than copper to electromagnetic interference.
There are several forms of fibre deployment that offer varying degrees of fibre penetration.
Fibre To The Home (FTTH) is a fibre connection that goes directly into a building.
It offers the fastest internet and TV connections available on the market. Several operators in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and others are involved in FTTH roll out projects that take fibre to the home or at least close to it.
However there are several reasons why (if national roll out has not yet already occurred) populations are unlikely to get it.
The first obstacle is the significant capital investment required by telecoms operators. Fibre is more expensive than copper due to the cost of fibre deployment equipment. Having to rip out existing copper infrastructure to lay down fibre adds to costs. Therefore, the higher the fibre penetrates the higher the installation costs.
This means operators would rather provide a connectivity service that enables faster speeds but has less fibre. An example is the BT infinity service. This is Fibre To The Cabinet as opposed to Fibre To The Home. With Fibre To The Cabinet the fibre infrastructure stops at the street cabinet.
Between this point and the household is copper. It offers faster speeds than a standard broadband connection. However due to FTTC’s lower-fibre penetration it does not offer FTTH performance.
Technology innovation which is making fibre installation easier and cheaper might encourage FTTH. One example is micro-trenching. This involves inserting fibre into a much shallower trench than traditional methods, minimising damage to existing infrastructure.
Will this encourage telecom operators to roll out FTTH? The answer is probably not. The history of the telecommunication industry shows us that operators will delay infrastructure upgrade for as long as they can. Even when it was clear that having copper core networks was no longer appropriate, operators delayed converting them to fibre. Instead, they sought to prolong copper’s life by optimising its capacity. It was only when the core networks began to struggle that they put fibre into the core networks.
Eventually, bandwidth demand will rise beyond the capacity of existing local connectivity infrastructure causing bottle necks and slowing speeds. However, operators will use FFTC and similar products to delay FTTH roll out for as long as they can.