No business case for widespread FTTH
In comments that are no great surprise given the amounts currently being spent on the 21CN roll-out, Paul Reynolds the CEO of BT Wholesale is quoted as saying "I really don’t see a business case for widespread FTTH. It is not immediately apparent where the incremental revenue would come from that investment." at the DigiWorld 2006 Summit. More on this at Telecommunications Magazine.
The article mentions France Telecom running a fibre to the home trial in Paris, which may well be in response to competition from providers like Iliad who are looking to spend €1 billion to bring fibre to the Paris area. BT has dabbled with a Fibre to the Home (FTTH) trial, but no product timescales have emerged from this.
So where does this leave the UK, well for sure we will see wBBC (wholesale BroadBand Connect) bringing ADSL2+ to exchanges across the country as 21CN is rolled out between now and 2011. While this looks a long time to roll-out a technology that many DSLAM units used by BT already support, at three years it is a much faster roll-out than the original ADSL roll-out, and given the roll-out involves changes to the PSTN most people would prefer it to be done right, rather become a support nightmare. One big reason for the delay with exchange based ADSL2+ in the UK has probably been the costs to the service providers, congestion has become more noticeable with the roll-out of a fully rate adaptive ADSL service, and having 20 to 30% of users with speeds of 16Mbps and upwards would push costs up to service providers. The recently announced wholesale price cuts pave the way for providers being able to afford end-users having faster speeds, and once an IP based wholesale solution is released by BT Wholesale we should see costs fall further.
So what is the future for UK broadband? Well 45% of households may see speeds of 20Mbps or 50Mbps from ntl:Telewest, around 11 million households have access to ADSL2+ via Be, Bulldog, UK Online and other providers. Additionally by the end of 2011 we should have some 99.9% of households connected to an exchange offering an ADSL2+ service. Some households in the UK like the 600 properties in Charlton Down and more in Kingswells are benefiting from a Fibre to the Cabinet type architecture, with we believe further roll-out of this sort of network under consideration inside BT. The unbundled operators do have the option of unbundling the local loop at a street cabinet level giving access to shorter line lengths, and the possibility of giving faster speeds to more people.