A full fibre to the home deployment in the UK could cost as much as £28.8bn according to a report from the Broadband Stakeholder Group. The study titled The costs of deploying fibre-based next-generation broadband infrastructure (PDF) evaluates the different options available and include: a fibre to the cabinet deployment which uses technologies such as VDSL to provide the connectivity from the cabinet to the home (FTTC/VDSL); fibre to the home using GPON (Gigabit passive optical network) which deploys fibre to the home but uses shared fibre from the cabinet to the exchange (FTTH/GPON); or fibre to the home which has a dedicated (point-to-point) fibre from the exchange all the way to the home (FTTH/PTP).
The estimated costs of deploying each of these are as follows:
|FTTC/VDSL||30 - 100Mbit/s||5.1 billion|
|FTTH/GPON||80Mbit/s - 1Gbit/s||24.5 billion|
|FTTH/PTP||1 Gbit/s||28.8 billion|
The variance in speed between GPON and PTP fibre deployments is due to shared backhaul from the cabinet of the GPON deployment. This uses a 2.5Gbit/s (gigabit per second) fibre to serve up to 32 homes, where as the PTP has a dedicated fibre from the exchange to each home. The VDSL deployment is significantly (between 10 and 30 times) slower than the full PTP FTTH. The £1.5bn fibre deployment announced by BT in July is set to use a mix of FTTC using VDSL and also FTTH with GPON.
The largest single cost component of the entire deployment is the cost of deploying and installing the fibre in new or existing ducts. Cost savings could be gained by using existing infrastructure of Virgin Media or the utility companies. Whilst the costs are fairly constant over higher density regions, rural areas increase the cost of deployment significantly. The BSG estimates that for a FTTC/VDSL deployment, the final 16% of households in rural areas would cost £1.8bn to connect up, accounting for 35% of the total cost. This is not too dissimilar to rural area deployments of ADSL which see a higher cost due to the lower number of users.
Unfortunately, once a VDSL based deployment is in place, the business case for upgrading to full fibre diminishes as there are, at the moment, few applications that would gain a significant advantage by being deployed over fibre to the home, and therefore less revenue to be gained when switching from FTTC to FTTH. One hopes that the deployment of faster infrastructure will introduce new applications that will require ever more bandwidth and generate the innovation that will see the need to go further to a full fibre deployment.