The UK is already one of the most digital engaged nations in the world, the volume of our online shopping is already decimating the high street, where it has lagged behind other countries is the adoption of full fibre to the home (FTTH/FTTP) services. This is starting to change as evidenced by the regular news of new small projects bringing future proof services to parts of the UK.
With the FTTH Council Europe conference coming to London in just under a months time, it is worth looking at the numbers they have for FTTH/B in the UK. For those not aware FTTB is where fibre is supplied to the basement of a building and Ethernet cabling used to distribute it around a block of flats, e.g. Hyperoptic, Ask4 and others.
As of December 2012, the UK has some 199,000 homes passed by a FTTH/B network, with a takeup rate of 8.5% (17,000 subscribers). This take-up rate is very close to the 8.9% for FTTC services which has some 1,165,000 subscribers in the UK. With similar takeup rates those accountants in charge of balance sheets may feel vindicated in saying that FTTC is the best investment vehicle, this though has to be balanced by the knowledge that in the 5 to 10 year timeframe further spending will be required to boost FTTC speeds. Of course the gamble on the part of Openreach is that the cost of FTTH deployment will drop over time and on the part of the Government it is that our lead in the digital economy will not be eroded in the next 3 to 5 years.
|FTTH/B Data as of December 2012 released by FTTH Council Europe|
|Others (e.g. B4rn, Gigaclear, Hyperoptic)||10,000||80,000|
|FTTC Data as of December 2012 released by FTTH Council Europe|
|Digital Region||no data||480,000|
|Other providers via BT Wholesale and Sky||150,000||-|
The dominance of BT Retail in the FTTC market is clear and very much reflects the early data of the ADSL roll-outs when the public assumptions was that BT Openworld services were the only to get the service from when an area got ADSL for the first time. While Openreach does attempt to publicise bringing FTTC/H to an area independent of providers, it is all too often that people refer to this promotion as Infinity arriving in an area. The delays that TalkTalk and Sky sometimes have in offering their services at a specific fibre handover node do not help.
With the Openreach Fibre on Demand product just months away from launch it is the perfect time to highlight what the FTTH Council Europe defines as Homes Passed and seems to be a sensible definition.
"'Homes Passed' is the potential number of premises to which a Service Provider has capability to connect in a service area. Typically new service activation will require the installation and/or connection of a drop cable from the homes passed point (e.g. fiber-pedestal, manhole, chamber, utility-pole) to the premises, and the installation of subscriber premises equipment at the premises. This definition excludes premises that cannot be connected without further installation of substantial cable plant such as feeder and distribution cables (fiber) to reach the area in which a potential new subscriber is located."FTTH Council Europe definition of Homes Passed
Based on this definition the wording around Fibre on Demand becoming available to around half the UK and this growing to around two thirds by 2014 and potentially to 90% at some point in 2015/2016 if the BT Group wins all the BDUK projects needs to be carefully watched. A property would only be considered as passed by a FTTH network when the fibre is at the last manifold close to a property, so as one premises orders Fibre on Demand another 8 to 12 properties (varying based on size of manifold) can be added to the Homes Passed counter, though subsequent homes will still have to pay their fair share of the Fibre on Demand activation fee.