Time to throw out 'up to' and say hello to FTTH
The UK has had a lot of campaigning calling for 'up to' to be removed from advertising and consumers to get better information on the speed of a product before signing up. Alas the technicalities of any DSL based broadband, be that ADSL, ADSL2+ or VDSL (FTTC) mean that up to will always remain in one form or another.
There is a solution that can give fixed connection speeds and has the capability to have users receiving guaranteed bandwidth onto their broadband providers network, and that is Fibre to the Home (FTTH). In theory cable DOCSIS networks offer fixed speed connections, but the limited bandwidth capacity on the metallic segment does result in problems.
The FTTH Council Europe of course thinks that full Fibre to the Home is the solution and with the 2013 FTTH Conference is looking to inform investors and help those from across Europe and the UK who want to start a FTTH network roll-out. Three arguments consistently appear with regard to why we should not invest in FTTH.
- There is no market evidence that higher speeds are needed;
- Financing networks is not possible;
- Europe has more urgent problems than broadband
The FTTH Council EU has looked at the fibre projects that have been running for some years, and while it is true that you do not see massive take-up overnight, people do subscribe in sufficient numbers and once using the service are very loyal. In fact the old 'up to' problem is likely to be one reason people do not subscribe to the various FTTH products that offer 50, 100, 200 Mbps or faster speeds as after a decade of never seeing the advertised speeds they assume the new service is too good to be true.
Financing and the cost of a pure FTTH network are seen as the biggest hurdles, and the FTTH Council Europe is building a bottom up set of cost calculations, rather than the usual method which is to assume something as simple £1000 per premise and multiple this by the number of premises in a country. While these new calculations will not solve all the financing issues, hosting days like special 'Investors Day' in the February council should bring investors and the fibre evangelists closer.
In a global economy if we ignore broadband connectivity, or allow other parts of the world to become the place where broadband investment has created a vibrant digital economy then Europe, let alone the UK may cease to be the place to do business in many sectors. Many private investors in the 19th century saw the benefits rail networks would bring and while not every trainline flourished, looking back now it was these networks that laid the foundations for progress, the following quote sums the difference that trains and now fast reliable broadband will bring.
"In the mid-nineteenth century the French town of Alençon was an important crossroads between Paris and the West of France, similar in size to its regional rival, Le Mans. Then, the train arrived. Or rather, it didn’t for Alençon. The railroad between Paris and the West cut through Le Mans and Alençon was side-tracked; the latter town slid into a period of economic stagnation, while Le Mans boomed."Nadia Babaali, Communications Director, FTTH Council Europe
The UK has opted for an incremental change to broadband connections utilising FTTC based on the return on investment it would offer, and with further spending likely post 2015 to improve things once again for the final 10% lets hope that sense prevails and the constant cycle of small improvements can be laid to rest by roll-out of fibre to the home. We shall end with an example from Lower Austria.
"Next year, elections will be held in Lower Austria. The local government may hope to win votes from citizens that have even less than 8 Mbps ‘broadband’ today. But they may have underestimated end-users, who are already complaining that an ‘upgrade’ from the current ‘up to 6 Mbps DSL’ is insufficient and the 5 million euro public money could have been invested more effectively."Karin Ahl, President of the Board, FTTH Council Europe